Director: Pete Doctor and Ronaldo Del Carmen
Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle Maclachlan, and Richard Kind
My kid was recently sitting on the ground with his head down fighting a nap. I asked him what was wrong and he responded simply with “I don’t know why I am sad”. Emotions are a constant in Pixar films. Look no further than their impressive catalog of films to display this quality, the first ten minutes of “Up” is a perfect example. What separates Pixar from some competition is the way they utilize these emotions to assist in the development of the script and characters. “Inside Out” tackles the topic of emotions taking place literally inside the head of a little girl. While Pixar may have stumbled slightly with their last few films, “Inside Out” is a return to impressive form. Director Pete Doctor and Ronaldo Del Carmen bring a unique storytelling quality to this animated film, one that moves in and out of one character’s mind, and the result is a film that is smart, poignant, and thought provoking.
Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is a young girl who loves playing hockey and being silly with her mom and dad. She is living a happy life in the Midwest until her father starts a new job in San Francisco, uprooting Riley from the familiar and comforting routine she has come to enjoy. This is a difficult move for Riley but also for the emotions that guide her daily life. Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader) are the emotions that live in the control headquarters of Riley’s mind. Joy is the leader of the group, guiding Riley towards positive memories and outlooks. However conflict erupts during the move between Joy and Sadness, leading them away from headquarters and leaving Riley stuck with Anger, Disgust, and Fear in control.
Animated films offer a medium of storytelling that, in some regards, offers greater freedom to tackle subjects complex or difficult to execute. “Inside Out” is unique in the regard that it portrays the literal emotions of the mind with characters. Director Pete Doctor and Ronaldo Del Carmen accomplish this storytelling aspect gracefully, allowing the oldest and youngest viewer easy navigation throughout. The narrative also offers some effective metaphors of life and learning, ones that are nicely accomplished through the characters of Joy and Sadness, both of whom do not understand the importance of one another.
The animation is exceptional. Just like the compositions of Pixar’s previous works, “Inside Out” crafts an atmosphere that is distinctive. Whether the formation of the world that Riley sees, a wintry, bright Minnesota when she his happy or a dreary, overcast San Francisco when she is sad, or the world of the emotions that is formed with orbs of color that reflect Riley’s memories with formed islands that distinguish the important aspects of her personality. It all serves an important purpose when it comes to displaying how the mind functions on the rollercoaster of life’s emotional events.
The characters are represented flawlessly, especially the emotions that are a mix of talented comedy actors. Amy Poehler is terrific as Joy, a mile a minute vehicle of glittery yellow with unwavering happiness. Her counter is Phyllis Smith as Sadness, most will know her tone from television’s “The Office”, who’s demoralized voice reflects the gloom and worry of the small blue character she portrays. The remaining cast of Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, and Lewis Black play nicely off one another once they are forced to start working together.
There is much more to “Inside Out” than described here, but to share too much would be to spoil the surprise. Whether a commentary for parent discussion or an explanation for children, the film doesn’t shy away from the challenging emotions experienced in childhood or surprisingly how it continues in different ways throughout adulthood. “Inside Out” is an accomplished narrative that is supported by talented actors and lead by an insightful creative team, it’s an ambitious animated film for all ages.
4.50 out of 5.00