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Should I Watch..? Inside Out

Updated on March 23, 2020
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.

Promotional poster for "Inside Out"
Promotional poster for "Inside Out" | Source

What's the big deal?

Inside Out is a CG animated comedy drama film released by Pixar in 2015, their fifteenth feature-length release. It sees the return of what I like to call "serious Pixar" which saw the studio break away from more traditional fare like Cars and Ratatouille and start making films that were more cerebral and imaginative like Up and WALL·E. Directed and co-written by Pixar stalwart Pete Docter, the film is largely set in the mind of an eleven year-old girl named Riley whose reaction to moving from Minnesota to San Francisco is decided by five emotive states - Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. It was released to universal acclaim and actually broke the record held by Avatar for the biggest weekend opening for an original title, grossing over $90 million in three days.


5 stars for Inside Out

What's it about?

Inside the mind of Minnesota girl Riley, five emotional state govern her reaction to the world around her. Joy, Anger, Sadness, Disgust and Fear all live and work in Headquarters - Riley's conscious mind - and process the various memories that arrive each day before sending them off to storage. Powerful memories, known as core memories, are siphoned off to power five islands of personality, each one a different aspect of her psyche. Joy tends to lead the gang but nobody understands Sadness's role.

When she's eleven, Riley and her parents leave Minnesota for San Francisco after Riley's dad gets a new job. Riley leaves her friends and her beloved ice hockey behind and the move is a disaster which upsets Riley a great deal, thanks to Sadness interfering with memories and turning them sad. Determined to cheer Riley up, Joy attempts to dispose of a sad core memory but ends up disrupting all Riley's core memories instead. This causes herself and Sadness to become separated from Headquarters and are stranded beyond the personality islands in Riley's labyrinthine long-term memory. Anger, Fear and Disgust, meanwhile, are forced to try and steady the ship - with terrible consequences...


Main Cast

Amy Poehler
Phyllis Smith
Bill Hader
Lewis Black
Mindy Kaling
Kaitlyn Dias
Riley Andersen
Diane Lane
Riley's mother
Kyle MacLachlan
Riley's father
Richard Kind
Bing Bong

Technical Info

Pete Docter & Ronaldo del Carmen
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve & Josh Cooley *
Running Time
94 minutes
Release Date (UK)
24th July, 2015
Animation, Comedy, Fantasy
Academy Award
Best Animated Feature Film
Academy Award Nomination
Best Original Screenplay

* story by Pete Docter & Ronaldo del Carmen, additional dialogue by Bill Hader & Amy Poehler

Meet the Andersens - Mom (left), Riley and Dad (right)
Meet the Andersens - Mom (left), Riley and Dad (right) | Source

What's to like?

It's a rare film indeed that has me stumped for plaudits but Inside Out is that good a film. Conceptually, the film is a masterpiece that deals with complex themes and ideas in such an easy-to-understand manner that every the youngest of viewers will understand. It is an explosion of ideas from the concept of these five recognisable characters inside all of us to little things such as the ease with which facts and opinions can be confused or the brilliant way of demonstrating how annoying jingles can be remembered forever.

As usual with Pixar, they find the exact right performers for the characters instead of rounding up a big name cast and then expecting magic like DreamWorks seem to. Poehler, Kind and Smith are wonderful, instantly creating characters with so much life in them. But I suspect the one most will remember is Black's fantastically fire-branded Anger who gets most of the laughs. But Inside Out is not just a decent comedy - it takes some dramatic twists and turns and isn't afraid to give your heartstrings a good tug the way WALL·E and Up especially did. This is a sublime, funny, intelligent and unbelievably enjoyable experience.

Fun Facts

  • Released theatrically alongside Pixar's short film Lava, a beautifully evocative love song between two volcanos sung over the course of millions of years.
  • When Joy and Sadness pass through Imagination Land, keep your eyes peeled for a board game in the background called Find Me which has a cartoon drawing of Nemo from Finding Nemo on the side.
  • For the voice of toddler-age Riley, Pixar recycled voice clips by Mary Gibbs recorded during production of Monsters Inc. although she does receive a credit for 'Additional Voices' in this film too.

What's not to like?

Hmm, something I didn't like... This might be tricky...

I suppose that the film isn't the easiest to sell to young kids excited at the latest Pixar release. The film's screenplay is based on the theories of psychologists Paul Ekman and Dacher Keltner and while it provides a perfectly plausible basis for a film such as this, it seems a little too simplistic to me. Riley's crisis due to her family moving to San Francisco seemed a little bit middle-class to me - how would the film have progressed if her parents divorced instead or if Riley fell in love with a boy in California, a subplot which is teased but never explored.

But generally speaking, I really cannot think of anything I didn't like about Inside Out. It is undoubtedly one of Pixar's very best films and possibly their best one yet. And for someone like me who will defend WALL·E until I'm blue in the face, this presents a huge challenge. Inside Out is more fun, cleverer and more colourful so the largely dialogue-free WALL·E is not as appealing to kids as this film is either.

Joy (centre) oversees Riley's actions while Sadness (far left), Fear (left), Anger (far right) and Disgust (right) look on
Joy (centre) oversees Riley's actions while Sadness (far left), Fear (left), Anger (far right) and Disgust (right) look on | Source

Should I watch it?

There is a reason why people call me a Pixar snob. It's because that bar the odd clunker here and there like Cars 2, they continue to produce truly brilliant cinema for people of all ages which continues to push both technical boundaries as well as imaginative and innovative ones. Inside Out is a showpiece of brilliance, a wonderfully funny and entertaining journey into the mind of a normal young girl that makes a mockery of wannabes like Rio, Hotel Transylvania and those damned, despicable Minions. Forget all of those - I'll take this brilliant movie any day of the week.

Great For: children, adults, psychologists

Not So Great For: Scientologists

What else should I watch?

Inside Out joins WALL·E and Up at the top of Pixar's back catalogue - all three are entertaining and imaginative and offer viewers something very different from anything else out there. Toy Story 3 just misses out from this exulted company because it's a sequel and therefore not an original idea. Such is the margin between success and failure.

To be honest, almost anything in Pixar's past is worthy of viewing because nearly all of their films are wonderful to watch. The magic never gets old, whether it's the now-iconic debuts of Buzz and Woody in Toy Story to the hyper-energetic tribute to superheroes of yore in The Incredibles. The only film I would be wary of recommending is the disappointing Cars 2 which is about as derivative as Pixar get and caters for the youngest possible audience, no doubt encouraging them to badger their parents into buying billions' worth of merchandise.

© 2015 Benjamin Cox

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