Inside Out: The Animation of Neuroses

The latest Pixar film to hit cinema’s is ”Inside Out”, directed by Pete Docter and starring Amy Poeler and Phyllis Smith. Here is the trailer:

Ill be honest here…this is the first animated movie I’ve seen in the cinema in about a decade. I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it.

But I was wrong…I really did enjoy it. It was funny, emotional and clever. Yes it isn’t as good as Toy Story or Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc! And Yes I thought parts were too childish, but I guess that is the point? THIS IS A KIDS FILM; one that is well made, very thoughtful and definitely worth a watch. I enjoyed it and I’m a grumpy 24 year old man-child.

The pre-show short is about a Volcano looking for someone to ”Lava”, complete with catchy ukulele song that stuck in my head for far too long, was nice although a little twee for me. Id rather watch the one about a young lamp jumping around.

I would lava it if you stopped singing!

Anyway onto the main event! ”Inside Out” follows the story of 11 year old girl Riley and her struggles to adapt to her new life in San Francisco following her move from the beloved family home in Minnesota. Except there is one big difference, the story is mainly told from the point of view of the personified emotions who control Riley. Joy (Poeler), Sadness (Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) run Riley from ”head-quarters”, where they help control her mood, responses, personality and memories. Up until now Joy has run the show, happy memories and minimum Sadness. However, the move to California coupled with Sadness’s increasing incompetence leads to Joy and Sadness getting stuck in the labyrinth known as long-term memory storage. Disastrously leaving Anger, Fear and Disgust in charge. Joy and Sadness try to make it back to HQ before any permanent damage is done to Riley and her family.

I really liked how clever this film is. Not in a ”Memento” or ”Inception” way which makes you pay attention and either gives you a migraine or a coma. Here their complex idea i.e. YOU is portrayed in an interesting, original and entertaining way. Personified key emotions run the show. Core memories used to create personality islands to form the basis of you. Memory balls, long term storage. A literal train of thought.  All presented and brought together in a simple but very clever representation of the infinitely complex YOU.

The choice of emotions for personification was great; if you’re really honest with yourself then Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust play a part in every decision, reaction and situation. Big or small! The vocal performances were great and surprisingly 3D for characters literally defined by one emotion!

Whilst watching the film I did have a bit of a problem with Joy, although funny and brilliantly voiced, and just how over-zealous and obnoxiously happy she wanted everything to be. No wriggle room. Happy is good. Sad is bad. But then I realised two things. 1) I am British and showing any outward sign of emotion, especially unbridled joy is frowned upon! 2) Little kids are really happy nearly all the time. They don’t deal in the grey, complex emotions. They deal in Happy or sad. But mainly JOY. Maybe this is why Joy didnt always sit well with me.

For me it wasn’t all sunshine and puppies though. At times the film is slow, spending too much time focusing on Joy and Sadness’ journey back to HQ from long term memory storage. Yes it was charming and had some great parts, but there were far too many examples proving that Joy and Sadness are different and incompatible. And not enough examples of the important role of sadness in combining with joy to create meaningful and complex emotions during the final pay-off (And no development of the other emotions’ roles). Having said this I enjoyed Bing Bong, the pink-elephant/imaginary friend. A fact that makes me question ever part of my being.

For the sake of transparency,  my imaginary friend was called Arthur and, fortunately, he looked absolutely nothing like this nightmarish monstrosity.

My favourite parts of the movie were the hilarious discussions in HQ on how the emotions should handle Riley’s situations and seeing how different they all are. I would have loved to have seen more of these, with lots more different emotional combinations taking control. But hey…it is a minor complaint.

Is this the best Pixar film? No. Is it ”Finding Nemo”? No. Is it worth watching? YES. ”Inside Out” is a great film, with lots of heart and lots of fun. More importantly it is a good story that we can all relate to: growing up. moving house, new schools and learning how to handle the complex emotions and thoughts that come with getting older. The problem of learning that the world isn’t black or white, or rather yellow and blue, but rather both.

Wait blue and yellow makes green?…But green is disgust?…Ah shit now I’m confused.


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