One Liner Review:
A creative and fun romp into the imaginary world of feelings and their personalities.
A pretty good film, this movie is especially deep and creative in ways he haven’t really seen from most Pixar films. The only movie of theirs that really creates a whole world completely separate from humans, like this one does, is Monsters Inc. In that film, a human gets into the monster world. Here, in Inside Out, it’s feelings who are the main characters and go on the journey into another world. They go into Riley’s subconcious. Riley is a little girl who they are inside the head of, controlling her reactions to things. The feelings are very funny and there is some real dead-on casting here. The only problem is that for much of the middle portion, three of these feelings are left out. That’s when Joy and Sadness go on a mission by themselves, and we start following them into the underbelly of Riley’s mind. The movie is good, but it gets a little too dark in those mid-portions. Still, it is overall a very smart and enjoyable film.
Inside Out might be the deepest Disney animated film yet. While all of their films work on multiple levels, usually it’s just a handful of jokes here and there that have symbolic meaning. With this movie, it’s nearly the entire thing. That’s because this is the film about giving personality to feelings and also going inside somebodie’s head. Think of it like the scenes from Being John Malkovich, where they actually traveled into his subconcious meets the Never Ending Story Part 2, and all od that business of making new memories and erasing old ones.
The basic premise here involves five characters who sit at a console inside the head of Riley, a young girl who is trying to figure her life out. These characters are Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis from The Office), Disgust (Mindy Kailing) and Fear (Bill Hader.) They hit buttons in the center of the console to control how Riley handles things. So, for example, if Anger hits a button then Riley explodes. If Joy hits a button then Riley comes up with a great, happy idea and starts celebrating.
All of this is remeniscent of an old ride that was once at Disney World, and was really more of a show. You would sit around and watch a character sit in a throne-like raised chair, facing a screen and a console, and he would be inside the brain of a boy, working all of his systems. With that one, it was one main character running things. From there, we got the television show Herman’s Head, which was a group of characters controlling this guy named Herman. Inside Out is a combination of those two concepts, both of which are decades old and long forgotten at this point by most people.
The movie opens by taking us through exactly how everything inside of Riley works. The five main feelings sit in this booth called the headquarters, overlooking a vast and giant area. It’s like a control tower at an airport. There are train tracks coming out of the control on all sides that lead to different lands such as goofy fun, hockey (Riley’s favorite sport to play), and family. Each of these lands is powered by the track that leads to it, and so when something about family happens to Riley, the family land starts bouncig around.
Aside from that, there are also these things called Core Memories, which are the memories that Riley is holding onto in her head. They might be from a long time ago, but as long as Riley still remembers them, they stay lit up. The memories turn the color of the feeling that most categorizes them, and they look like bowling balls. Especially when they get filed away onto shelves. Joy is the one who files them most, since most of the memories are yellow (her color) and are happy ones.
There’s a lot of setup there, explaining how this whole world operates, and the movie handles it well, really knocking out all of the necessary explaining in the first ten minutes or so. Every Pixar movie creates some sort of world that is different from ours, but most just have a few key differences here and there. Like Frozen with those stone trolls. Inside Out is different. It’s more on the level of Monster’s Inc, where an entirely different universe has been created and the main characters aren’t even people. The Pixar model is about giving feelings to things that don’t really have them. What if Toys had feelings (Toy Story), what is Cars had feelings (Cars), what if the Monster under your bed had feelings, (Monsters Inc.) With Inside Out, they face their greatest challenge yet… What if feelings had feelings?
The real story gets going early on when we find out that Riley and her parents are moving away. Her dad has to move for work and he uproots them from Minnesota to San Fransisco. Always San Fransisco with these Pixar people. I was just watching Big Hero 6 the other day which took place in the futuristic version, San Fran Sokio. Here, Riley is totally out of place. Her new house is terrible and her room is worse. She doesn’t even have a bed and has to sleep in a sleeping bag on the dirty floor. You can imagine Disgust’s reaction, as handled by Mindy Kaling.
Riley has to go to a new school and introduce herself to the class, and watching the feelings handle this situaiton is hilarious. Especially Fear who came in prepared with a list of all the things that could go wrong that first day. Being called on by the teacher was definitely on the list, but he never expected it to happen the first second that the class begins. All of this is the conflict that Riley is dealing with. She’s having trouble making friends, fitting in, joining the hockey team at this school, and even getting her box of things that the moving van says won’t be there for a week.
If the movie stayed with Rile, it might have been a better film. Instead, it really follow two characters, Joy and Sadness who get lost in the world outside of the headquarters booth. Sadness is constantly trying to touch the core memories, which turns them blue and sad. When Joy tries to stop her, the two of them get sucked up and spit out into the world of Riley’s subconcious. This includes dreams, abstract thought, cloud city, and all kinds of other strange places. Some of the places they go to are neat, but for the most part this storyline feels routine. Two characters get lost out in the world and have to find their way back home.
While they do meet another character, Bing Bong, the imaginary friend elephant who Riley has put on the back burner of her memories, he hardly makes up for the other three leads who we now pretty much stop following. The fact is Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, and Bill Hader were all perfect in their roles, and for the mid-portion of the film, we barely see any of them. That’s a problem. It also doesn’t help that we can predict exactly where this movie will end, with the characters finding their way back from to complete the circle. Now, the good news is that there are definitely some cool places where they go, and also that there’s a nice, unpredictable twist ending, involving Joy and Sadness that is nearly as creative as the Frozen ending with the finding of true love. This is definitely a good movie and it’s great that it works on so many levels. It is absolutely the most adult-oriented of the Pixar films, and while the mid-portions do get kind of dark and slow in ways that aren’t much fun, the movie bounces back and wins us over.