A new Pixar release is almost always a cause for celebration, and ‘Inside Out’ is no exception. It’s a perfectly balanced original creation – an animated entertainment about emotions Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), that elicits and completely earns these same emotional responses from an audience thoroughly entertained throughout.
While the concept of characters at a control panel inside a human’s mind is not wholly original (think ‘Herman’s Head’), what director Pete Docter (‘Up’, ‘Monsters Inc.’) and talented crew cook up for this film is that as a person grows and matures, building connections and experiencing life, there are characters expressing and influencing the actions of the person, plus a complex network of ‘mind-workers’ maintaining the memories, imagination, dreams, etc. of each individual – in this case it is an 11-year-old girl named Riley. The film’s representations of these manifestations are perfectly cast and rendered – their design, movement, and voice-work is detailed and engaging. The mindscapes imagined and brought to computer animated life are unique, fully-formed, and immersive. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the fact that life starts with a spark of Joy and begins filling up with other emotions, core memories, and cityscapes that make up a person’s personality, which become the characters and setting of the movie.
This is one of the most complex Pixar films yet, taking abstract ideas and literally manifesting them on screen. As opposed to presenting anthropomorphic animals or objects as has been done in the past, ‘Inside Out’ basically personifies aspects of the mind and soul. In the process, the film creates entertainment out of very clever set-ups and explanations behind psychological response, from the parenting styles of the mother and father, to the very real traumatization and acceptance an adolescent goes through when moving away from familiar surroundings and being exposed to more situations requiring maturity. With this set-up intact, the filmmakers get to explore these emotions while setting up an action-packed, hilarious, and effectively poignant movie for all ages. It took a few years, but Pixar has yet another creative masterpiece on their hands and another perfect summer entertainment . . .
Directed By: Pete Docter & Ronaldo Del Carmen
Written By: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley
Running Time: 94 min.
* * * * (out of 4 stars) -OR- A