Susan Granger’s review of “Inside Out” (Pixar/Disney)
After a two-year hiatus, Pixar Animation (“The Incredibles,” “Wall-E,” “Toy Story”) is back with an incredibly creative, complex idea: how our various emotions affect our behavior.
The concept revolves around five instinctive emotions that propel us: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Bill Hader) and Fear (Lewis Black). Headquartered in a vast Control Center in our mind, these emotions transfer experiences to vast memory banks, which is why – for example – we can remember pop jingles and silly songs.
When happy, playful 11 year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is forced to move from her idyllic home in Minnesota to an old Victorian house in San Francisco, she has trouble adjusting. The three stabilities in her life – family, friendship and hockey – are shaken to the core.
While ebullient Joy dominated Riley’s consciousness for many years, keeping wistful Sadness on the sidelines, now both Joy and Sadness are sucked from the Control Center and plunged into the countless, kaleidoscopic channels of her brain. That happens when Riley realizes she no longer has friends she can rely on and she loses confidence in her ability to play hockey.
Director Pete Docter (“Up”) explores “inside” Riley’s mind, which reacts to the “outside” world. Sounds confusing? It isn’t. Particularly at the dinner table when Mom (Diane Lane) and Dad (Kyle MacLachlan) react to petulant, pre-teen Riley’s moody rebellion, which is a reflection of her insecurity.
Pixar animators visualize the inner workings of the brain and simplify them – with honesty, subtle humor and compassion to spare. Each experience is depicted as a marble, which rolls through a series of ramps and chutes, landing on a Train-of-Thought, perhaps bypassing Long Term Memory, leading to Abstract Thinking, even Goofball Island.
There’s even a dazzling, surreal dream sequence with Riley’s imaginary childhood friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind), evoking memories of Walt Disney’s “Fantasia.” The result is colorful, captivating and funny, illustrating a universal experience that engages both kids and adults.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Inside Out” is a terrific, triumphant 10, emerging as one of the most ambitious, exciting animated features ever made. And watch the closing credits.