By Darin Skaggs
The true brilliance of Pete Doctor’s new film Inside Out is the fact that the overall plot is seemingly so simple. An eleven year old girl lives a happy go lucky life when suddenly, due to her father’s job, the family moves to San Francisco and she is not totally on board. It explores the emotional toll that comes over her in this seemingly basic transition. This is all explored in the head of Riley as her five basic emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kailing), try to figure out how to react the right way.
After ten years of mostly joyful times, Riley has moved and her core memories, the ones that mean the most to her, are turning blue when Sadness gets an uncontrollable urge to touch them. After an argument against Joy and Sadness, they get sucked out of headquarters and have an adventure to find a way back. Inside Out really understands the mind of a young girl going through something new. We even get a glimpse into the two parents mind as well. Their emotions are more of a team, working together and at the same time seem a bit tired. It is these details that make this completely invented world seem fully realized. There are several different creative aspects to the world of Riley’s mind such as the dream world looking a lot like a movie studio and a machine that spits out ideal boyfriends.
Thankfully this film is hilarious, the last few Pixars had humor straight from that uncle who you rarely visit and give your pity laughs to. This one has the humor of that best friend you’ve known for years that you can always count on for a chuckle. The last Pixar with jokes that I was laughing constantly was Doctor’s previous film, Up. This is probably due to the fact that the emotions are all comedians. Amy Poehler always knocks it out of the park, Hader and Kailing are pretty good even though their characters are very minimal to the story. Lewis Black is anger which seems like uninspired casting, but also makes complete sense. You do not necessarily watch The Office and see the performance of Phyllis Smith and say “She’ll be one of the best parts of a big, animated film.” Yet, she is. She plays Sadness who conveys a lot of humor and, of course, sadness. All the cast is great, even the human characters who get the short end of the stick by having a plain Jane storyline, but without the contrasting tones in the movie none of the emotional core would shine.
Now you have great characters in Joy and Sadness. Riley is great as well. They really do find relatability in her and her parents, but the greatest character in the film and a top player in all of Pixar lore is Bing Bong played wonderfully by Richard Kind. He is the long lost imaginary friend of Riley’s younger days wandering the depths of her mind. He is a walking thesis of the film. He is funny, is one of the more creative ideas to come out of the brains of Pixar and is a big part of what makes the movie so emotionally moving. Weird little fun facts keep coming up with Bing Bong like he cries candy and is part dolphin even though he looks nothing like one. We first see him taking things that are not his with the mindset of a young child who believes all belongs to them. Then near the end he makes a selfless decision that he clearly learned while playing a harrowing adventure with his now grown up friend.
Inside Out is one of the best Pixar’s to come out in a long time and even better is easily a top five Pixar film. It is beautifully touching, laughs are thrown left and right with very little “roll your eyes” type jokes. This has set the bar high for Pixar yet again, but no matter what happens at least we have this wonderful piece of art.