Inside Out Review
Directed by amazing Pete Docter and released in May 2015, Inside Out is Pixar’s fifteenth feature film, an original movie, a return to form for the studio and definitely their best effort since ‘Toy Story 3′.
The story is the best thing about it. It is set in the mind of a young girl and her emotions are literally the characters of the movie, leading her through every step in her life. This is such a high-concept idea that I remember when I heard about it years ago, I was immediately interested and amazed at how creative and original Pixar can get with their concepts and ideas. It is a shame they don’t do original movies as much these days when they are the best at it. I wish they continue this route instead of going with sequels. This is such an imaginative story that is executed perfectly thanks to emotional investment and technical ingenuity.
The beginning is absolutely perfect, immediately making you intrigued at the possibilities of this premise and introducing you to the characters perfectly. You get to know all of the characters very well just from the first act which is a testament to how good the character development here is. It sets the story wonderfully and on a happy note, showing you how Riley is happy in her life with a wonderful family and friends. But then all of the family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco where she is suddenly miserable, missing her friends and life in her home town. Everything also goes wrong in her head where her emotions of Joy and Sadness accidentally leave the Headquarters. Then they embark on a wonderful and sometimes dark journey through her mind while meeting a plethora of colorful characters and having to find a way to get back as Riley needs them. It is a deftly paced adventure movie that never gets dragged or rushed and especially never boring as it is always so fascinating, emotional and involving.
The characters are phenomenal of course. Everyone is developed in such a good way that you get to know all of them properly. Riley is great as this once happy, but now frustrated and deeply sad girl. She is realistic in both her design and her behavior. And although her emotions get most of the screen time, she is still well developed and you want her to be happy. Her parents are also wonderful as these supportive and loving people and the relationship between them is so beautiful to behold. But this is the show in the mind so naturally the characters there are developed the most. Anger is quite funny and definitely this movie’s sidekick, Disgust is also very likable and at times quite funny, but Fear is the weak link here, he is the most forgettable, but even he has some funny and observant lines. All three of them never get as much development or screen time as I wished, but that is understandable as there is not much time for everyone to get their moment to shine in such a short film.
But of course the two that get their proper development and who are the absolute standouts not only in the character department but are the highlights of the whole movie are of course Joy and Sadness. Joy is perfect as the protagonist here, and I would definitely call her the main character. She is the kind of person each of us knows in real life – always happy, always cheerful and with a smile on her face. And that of course can get irritating for the rest of us who are not like that and the movie addresses that and that frustration is evident in her relationship with the rest of the emotions/characters. But in her I saw the childlike wonder, excitement and inherent joy that children possess which is why I found her very sympathetic whereas she could have been easily annoying. And her devotion to Riley is so heartwarming.
Sadness is amazing, she simply is extraordinary. And because I personally had some moments of depression in my own life, I could easily relate to her. And once again she could have been annoying, but is in the end remarkable. Her design is perfect, her behavior realistic and her relationship with Joy is the highlight for both of them as it is such a contrast, but still they both need each other and their conclusion is so warm. I also have to give kudos to Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend from childhood. He is absolutely terrific. His inclusion is so smart as we get to remember Riley’s childhood and get reminded that that period of her life is over. That instant recognition of what he stands for and his conclusion are so poignant and important. And I know that I am getting repetitive, but he also could have been an annoying, one-note, stupid sidekick, but they never made him like that which just goes to show what a difficult work filmmakers had here that was demanding and could have all gone in many unwanted territories, but they pulled everything off remarkably.
Now I have to talk about the animation. What is there to say besides that it is breathtaking. This is the kind of animated work that gives CGI a good name and should be a textbook example of how to make computer animated films. It is so creative and also colorful, but never garish. The highlights are the sequences in the memory department where the movie shines the most. It wonderfully painted this whole world inside the mind and the animators did it realistically, incorporating all the things you expect to find there from memory to personality traits to emotions. It is evident that they used some scientific help which is great as it shows their devotion for this project and wonderful attention to detail. The world-building is amazing with vast riches of space here beautifully explored. But I also like the animation of the city and the design of the characters. The humans’ design is very grounded in approach (unlike Disney’s unrealistic pretty looks)and although typical for Pixar, it serves the movie perfectly as the counteract to the characters of emotions who are more cartoony and bright in style. And they are wonderfully animated with each of the five being truthful in style to their personality. Yes, both the animation of the scenery as well as the characters is absolutely mesmerizing.
The directing from Pete Docter is fantastic as usual. Now with Inside Out, he is definitely my favorite Pixar director as both his ‘Monsters Inc.’ and of course extraordinary ‘Up’ are two of my favorite movies from the studio. The imagery is terrific as is the score. The voice cast did a great job, all of them giving excellent performances in demanding roles. And the tone is great as it is at times heartwarming, at times funny, but many times also dark and very sad. Of course the originality factor is evident and this is one of the most authentic both in style and in essence Pixar films which is really saying a lot. The dialogue is mostly good and the humor, while rarely there, is great. The editing is very polished and the imagination is evident as well as the realism of it.
The movie has both brain and heart. It is smart and tackling the themes of childhood and growing up, different personality traits, family and the difficulties of moving to another town and the nostalgia for the home town. It explores all those themes properly and in a sophisticated manner, especially regarding Bing Bong. But oh, is it emotional as well. It is so warm, at times also funny, but mostly incredibly heartwarming and just bringing smile to your face. However, it can get pretty depressing and at times even devastatingly sad and powerful. There were three moments where I was on the verge of crying. I didn’t, but I was close which is really powerful that it moved me that often. It was of course in the end with the conclusion and Sadness and Joy’s embracing each other. Another one is with Joy reminiscing on Riley’s happy childhood memories and the most powerful one is with Bing Bong, but that I don’t want to spoil.
Now, for the flaws. This was tough for me. Inside Out is one of those movies where I do not want to give it a five, but also cannot find enough valid reasons for doing that early on. But I eventually did after thinking about it more. But just that dissatisfaction and wanting even more from the experience is somewhat enough for me, but let’s speak for the flaws and they are mostly minor. First, the rest of the characters apart from Joy and Sadness never get as much attention or development, but I forgive them as there wasn’t enough time. Speaking of which, the running time should have been longer. But also on the other hand, this concept I somehow got the feeling it would suit the short medium more as the feature format can make it somewhat repetitive and overlong. The short I think would make it more artistic and powerful, but that is just my opinion. I also wanted a bit more adult sophistication from it. That is probably the only big problem I have with Inside Out. It aims at both children and adults, but it is never as mature as some other Pixar works and most importantly it is not for children. That is very problematic as it definitely tries to make it accessible for the little ones, but it is still way too complex and convoluted for them to understand making it definitely a movie that children should not watch and would find boring and difficult to grasp.
Comparing it to other Pixar movies, this is certainly not on par with their ultimate classics which are in my opinion ‘Up’, ‘WALL-E’, ‘Ratatouille‘ and ‘Monsters Inc.’, but it’s still quite on par with ‘Toy Story 3‘ and ‘The Incredibles‘ for instance and it is definitely one of their better efforts, if not the best. It is however their best in half a decade and I wish they would go back to original ideas and this creative storytelling instead of stupid sequels. Pixar is back and I am so happy for them and for the humanity.