21 June, 2015

Review: "Inside Out" (*****)

Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) star in "Inside Out."

Pixar, the studio that has brought us some of the most unique memorable and iconic films of the past two decades has a new instant classic on their hands. "Inside Out" is not only a return to form for the animation house—after a few years of sequels and somewhat uninspired films—but a reminder of just how powerful and profound the best Pixar films are capable of being.

The story revolves around an 11-year-old girl named Riley. Riley loves her family, playing hockey and being a goofball with her friends. Riley also has a lot going on in her mind—which is where the majority of the story takes place. We’re introduced at the beginning of the film to Riley’s five core emotions—Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust. Each of these emotions are characters working together to control how Riley feels about everyday situations. The film’s main protagonist is Joy. Amy Poehler voices Joy and gives the character so much life and energy it’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. Joy introduces us to the other emotions as well as how everything in Riley’s head works—memories, day dreams, expectations, etc. Pixar’s vision of the inner mind is absolutely a dream to watch. It’s just as adorable as it is brilliant.

The five emotions, while a little na├»ve and inexperienced (Riley is only 11), have a routine. We see disgust (Mindy Kaling) take over after Riley discovers broccoli pizza. Anger (Lewis Black) takes over when her dad yells at her to go to her room. All of these emotions play a part in who she is. However, one of them, Sadness (Phyllis Smith), is somewhat useless. She mopes around, gets in the way and—as explained by Joy—doesn’t really seem to have much to contribute. Smith adds such humorous melancholy to the character. Most of her lines are laugh-out-loud funny.

While the set-up is wonderfully fascinating to watch, the real story kicks in when Riley and her parents are forced to move to San Francisco. While the trip starts off as an exciting new venture, it soon becomes apparent to Riley and her five emotions that this is not what she wants. Joy does her best to keep Riley happy and positive, yet Sadness keeps getting in the way. The adventure that follows is where the heart and message of the movie lie (I really don’t want to spoil anything here, so that’s the extent of the plot discussion).

"Inside Out" is a constant surprise and absurdly mature—even for Pixar. Common Pixar themes such as growing up and loss are present here more than ever. I would argue that this is actually a movie for adults more than it is for kids. Sure, the bright colors, inventive character design and slapstick humor will keep kids more than entertained—but the real power of the film comes from what it says about sadness, joy and how they have to work together in order to grow up. It’s a blast from beginning to end. The ideas presented are just as entertaining as the story. I was transfixed the entire time and so thrilled to be watching another Pixar masterpiece.

5 out of 5 stars.

P.S. I found myself ugly-crying at least three times so get ready.

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