Worth or Nah? - 'Inside Out'
I'm just going to come right out and say it: We probably won't see a movie as original and heart-wrenching as Inside Out for the rest of this year, and honestly, I think I'm okay with that.
Pixar's latest feature is a welcome return to form for the Disney-owned Oscar factory, after releasing the abysmal and unnecessary Cars 2, the good-but-not-great Brave and the underwhelming prequel Monsters University. While those movies were solid successes at the box office, they're without a doubt the weakest entries in the Pixar filmography up to this point.
What makes Inside Out so great is that it finally returns to the formula that made films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and WALL-E instant animated classics: an imaginative plot, unique characters and settings and, of course, a spoonful of sentimentality.
The plot follows the recently relocated Riley and her parents, who are trying to adjust to life in San Francisco after leaving their beloved Minnesota due to Dad's new job. Guiding Riley through the ups-and-downs of the experience are her emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith).
With Joy in command, the Emotions use their distinctive talents to ensure that Riley's personality remains intact at all times. Well, all of the Emotions except for Sadness, that is. The others restrict her from doing or touching anything inside of Riley's brain, also known as Headquarters (tee-hee), out of fear that she'll make Riley sad.
It's understandable why Sadness is usually kept out of the day-to-day operations of maintaining Riley's emotional stability. I mean, no one actually enjoys being unhappy, so from Joy's perspective, their exclusion of Sadness is all in the name of precaution.
However, things take a turn when Joy and Sadness, along with Riley's core memories, which form the base aspects of her personality, are accidentally ejected from Headquarters. While on the "outside," the duo quickly learns that they'll need to work together to not only return to their rightful place, but also to make Riley "Riley" again.
Inside Out has a quirky, but beautifully detailed look to it, especially during the scenes when we're inside of Riley's head. The wide variety of colors and hues that paint the vast mind-scapes encompassing the Emotions give the human brain the appearance of a themed area within a Disney park ("Cerebral Cortex-land" is what I'd call it).
The film's takes on a variety of mental processes and functions - like dreams, which are portrayed as movie-like productions filmed live within the subconscious - are innovative and whimsical, yet completely practical at the same time. It's a treat to look at, and that's probably even more true if you check it out it in 3-D. The animation was rendered to pop from the screen, but thankfully, it doesn't get too in your face.
Joy and Sadness' journey, as well as the experiences that Riley encounters as she navigates her new home without two of her most important emotions in control, is cleverly written and successfully manages to implement and explore a wide variety of big ideas and concepts with ease.
As for the voice cast, I don't believe there's been a more well-suited group of actors and actresses work to bring the characters, both human and abstract, to glorious life. Poehler infuses Joy with the same naive optimism that made Leslie Knope one of the best television characters in recent memory.
Smith, known mainly as one of the long-suffering foils to Steve Carell on The Office, lends a tender soft-spokenness and slight deadpan wit to Sadness, which shines during her interactions with Joy.
Kaling, Hader and Black are also perfect embodiments of their counterparts, and bring other feelings and behaviors to the seemingly one-dimensional personalities of their respective emotions. The human cast of characters is great too; Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), her parents and the world around them have a very real quality to them, despite the fact that, well, they're animated characters in a movie primarily set in someone's brain.
Overall, Inside Out is effervescently enjoyable and sweetly poignant, but does so without being too heavy-handed. It provides a great amount of fun for groups of all ages, and also supplies the audience with important messages in fresh, engaging ways.
Be warned: the "feels" can come in strong at many points before the credits begin to roll. If we're going to be honest, I teared up a bit during a pivital scene during the movie, which is something that doesn't happen to me often these days. Maybe something is going on up in my own Headquarters that I should know about.