Inside Out is a wildly creative leap of the imagination.
The Fantastic Five
The story is a dynamo of ambition founded on a deeply thought-out concept that makes Pixar’s weaker entries, such as Brave and Cars 2, look even more undeserving of the Pixar name.
It all surrounds the life of an 11-year-old girl, Riley (newcomer Kaitlyn Dias), whose life is turned upside down and inside out when her parents pack up the house and move from Minnesota to California. The turbulence of the move disrupts Riley’s comfortable life of school, friends and hockey.
Enter the five core emotions at work in Riley’s head: Joy (Amy Poehler, TV’s Parks and Recreation), Sadness (Phyllis Smith, Butter), Anger (Lewis Black, TV’s Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporate), Disgust (Mindy Kaling, TV’s The Mindy Project) and Fear (Bill Hader, Men In Black 3). They’re working overtime trying to keep Riley on track and things go to Code Red when Riley plots to run away from her parents and move back to Minnesota all on her own.
Inside Out was co-directed and co-written by Pete Docter, who led the charge with another similarly high-concept Pixar movie, Up. That’s the one about the old man who attaches balloons to his house and floats away on an adventure. One of Up’s highlights was an elegant, wordless sequence that recounts Carl’s relationship with his beloved wife.
Here, there’s a similar magic at work, this time buoyed by a lively, accessible look at the workings of the mind’s eye.
As envisioned by Docter and his legion of Pixar artists, the mind is arranged with a series of theme parks, each dedicated to a key element of life, such as family, friendship, hockey and, of course, goofiness. Here, the train of thought is a literal thing and it plays a central role when Joy and her mental colleagues seek to wake Riley from peaceful slumber in order to resume service on her train of thought, all in an effort to derail her plans to run away.
That adventure introduces Riley’s long-lost imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind, TV’s Gotham), a mishmash creature that reflects a child’s imagination; he’s part dolphin, part cat, pat elephant, and part cotton candy.
And the awakening adventure also tours through Riley’s dream studio, a hilarious place that (hopefully) bears no resemblance to the inner workings of Spielberg’s DreamWorks studio. The reality distortion filter is put on the camera of the mind’s eye as the day’s events are restaged and replayed, providing loads of fodder for pre-teen angst.
The Mind Reader
Here, the material is rich enough to warrant a second viewing. This is the kind of Pixar-perfect material that offers loads of thoughtful entertainment for adults while also serving as a colorful, seemingly nonsensical 90-minute distraction for the wee ones.
It’s the little moments that oftentimes offer the most kick. There’s a quick observation that the contents of crates, some holding facts and others holdings opinions, got jumbled together as Riley started to pursue her voyage home. And there’s also a clever sequence involving an incinerator of sorts; in there, all things go two-dimensional and, gosh, it seems as though the sound goes monaural.
During the end credits, Inside Out is dedicated to the moviemakers’ kids. The note reads, “Please don’t grow up. Ever.” It’s an honest, fitting request from the folks at Pixar, counter to the double standard of the over-rated Toy Story 3’s “facts of life” take on growing up and putting childhood behind — all told and animated by people with toys cluttering their Pixar cubicles.