Inside Out

Scott Wallace
25th Jun 2015

In Disney and Pixar’s latest animated treat, Inside Out, a pre-teen girl is forced to re-locate from a small town in Minnesota all the way to San Francisco for her fathers’ work. She is thrown into emotional turmoil when she realises how much she has left behind.

If it sounds cliché, then that’s because it is, but it doesn’t matter because that pre-teen girl, Riley, is not really the star of the show. Inside Riley’s mind are five colourful characters that represent the range of emotions she experiences – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger – who all work together in a kind of command centre inside her brain.

Up until Riley’s move, life has been pretty breezy for the homunculi in Riley’s mind, particularly for the bright, pixie-like Joy, who is voiced by actress, comedienne and all-around perfect human being Amy Poehler. The move shakes up their routine so badly, though, that Riley’s mind is thrown into disarray and she risks losing her precious core memories and eventually her whole self.

It’s extremely impressive the way the team behind this film (led by Pete Docter, who also helmed Monsters, Inc. and Up!) have found to re-tell an older than old story in a new way that gives it layers of reflexive meaning and pathos. And it’s still very much kid appropriate. It may be influenced by complex philosophy of mind theories, but Inside Out is still the same clever but uncondescending Pixar that have made some of the best animated films ever.

The visuals, as usual, are spectacular. Every time Pixar unleash a new film, though, it seems their prowess has improved in unimaginable ways. The film toys with three-dimensional space in playful and unexpected ways, creating setting that are reminiscent of old Hollywood musicals at times. There is so much gorgeous texture to the film, from the characters’ hair to the glassy surfaces of the orbs that represent Riley’s memories, that you feel as if you could reach out and touch it.

A phenomenal cast has also been assembled for the film. Bright and bubbly Amy Poehler is of course perfect as Joy, but Phyllis Smith, best known as playing sad sack Phyllis in the US version of The Office is a revelation as Sadness. The interplay between these two actors and their respective characters is what drives the film, and it works perfectly. You can’t recognise true Joy if it’s not balanced with Sadness.

In getting down to the nitty-gritty of how the imaginary inner world of Inside Out works, the film may become a little confusing for the youngest members of the audience, but that’s not really a problem with a film this visually engaging and full of life. An incredible cast of supporting characters parade through the film bringing the laughs with astonishing regularity.

Of course, this is a Pixar production, and the humour is well and truly balanced with a very moving sense of pathos. The film’s emotional climax is likely to have you in need of a tissue. It’s a cathartic journey at times, but the message its centre is invaluable – everyone is sad or scared or angry sometimes, so take the good with the bad and always be confident in who you are.

Calling Inside Out a kid’s movie almost seems disingenuous. Like the recently released Jurassic World, it feels as if it's at once for the inner child and the adult into which that child grew. That kind of universal appeal is hard to master, but with the absolute wonder and genuine heart on display here, Pixar have done it again.

Regardless of its intended audience, it’s an extension of what film and narrative can be. Perhaps it runs about ten minutes too long, but that’s entirely excusable when the end result is this breathtakingly gorgeous, smart, original, innovative and just plain enjoyable on every level.

Inside Out is in cinemas now.