Monday, June 22, 2015

[Review] Inside Out

After a string of subpar films, a year off from the release schedule, and some stronger outings from other studios, there seemed to be some rumblings that Pixar had lost its animation domination touch. This year the studio returns with the Pete Docter helmed Inside Out, and it relieves all worries.

The film dives inside the mind of a 12-year-old girl named Riley. Within the headquarters of her brain, emotions are personified as characters: Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Their main job is to help Riley express her feelings and process her memories. But things get thrown out of whack when Riley and her parents suddenly have to move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Riley gets caught between missing her old home and having a difficult time adjusting to her new one, which causes Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust to work overtime.

It's really an inventive premise, especially in the context of an animated film, and it's all utilized with immense success. Such clever storytelling and characterization is demonstrated--from the way the emotional characters are projected when they're isolated or when they mix and quarrel, to the correlation between their operations and Riley's actions. The script is pretty fantastic and slick. There's lots of funny bits, but the drama and character motivations come first and foremost. During a brilliant spin on a "disastrous dinner table scene" between Riley and her parents, the emotional characters within all three of them emerge, making for some amusing and clever exchanges.

The headquarters of the mind setting almost seems like it might've been a more minimal and contained plan for Pixar, but that certainly isn't the case. The developed setting in Riley's brain is ultra-innovative, and actually one of the more expansive worlds Pixar has created. It also allows for some of the more dazzling, surreal, and dare I say--somewhat psychedelic visuals that have appeared in a Pixar film. Aside from the headquarters, there are Islands of Personality, which sort of resemble the 3D map styles of the "Game of Thrones" opening credits, but with more color and less death. There's Dream Productions, Longterm Memory Lanes, and Imagination Land--making for some jubilant journeys for the characters with tons of eye-popping aesthetic variation. My personal favorite is a sequence when a couple of the emotions (as well as an imaginary friend) take a shortcut to catch the Train of Thought and they turn abstract, warping into Picasso-like versions of themselves.

Given that this is a film all about emotions, it'd be a crime if it didn't bring some of #thefeels. And there definitely are some tender moments, but chances are it won't leave you a blubbering mess like Up did. Even with all the complexities here, the messages are pretty straightforward: It's okay to be sad sometimes, especially when you're dealing with initially unwelcome changes. And your own family can be your real home no matter where the location is. My guess is that some of the humor and details might go over the heads of younger children, but then again, do we really know what's going on in there?

* 9/10 *

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