Overview: When 11-year-old Riley is uprooted from her life in Minnesota with a sudden move to San Francisco, her emotions (Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness) find themselves working overtime to navigate the hardships of growing older. Disney Pixar; PG; 2015, 102 minutes.
Inside Childhood: Visually, Inside Out is dazzling and breathtakingly imaginative. To create an interesting world inside of a child’s head is one thing, but to create a world that feels true to life, that feels honest and real, well, that’s another thing entirely. I’m in awe of the things Inside Out does, and out of respect for the film, I’m not going to reveal any more about the inner workings of Riley’s mind than what I already have. Every single thing comes together for this movie. The ambitious concept is skillfully and intelligently written by co-directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen. The direction is sharp, the score is appropriately whimsical and sentimental, and the voice acting is as strong as any you’re going to find.
Outside Adulthood: Voice and comic actors Phyllis Smith and Amy Poehler are standouts. What Smith creates with Sadness is a character who is riotously hilarious in one moment, and harrowingly heartbreaking in the next. As Joy, Poehler radiates more than just the happiness her character is nominally known for. She captures the desperate optimism that all of us felt as children, and the shining brightness that too many of us lose sight of throughout the rest of our lives. Inside Out inspires us to find that outlook again, and to hold on to it, even as we acknowledge that life is going to get sad sometimes, and that’s all right too. Like other Pixar films, Inside Out entertains all ages, and is packed full of a mature, sombre humor that even the adults in attendance can enjoy. My personal favorite was a quick, yet clear Chinatown reference which the Hollywood audience that I was a part of found delightful.
Life Itself: Rarely have I connected with a film on such a deep, emotional level in quiet the same way that I have connected with Inside Out. I don’t know quite how Disney and Pixar does it, but Docter and Carmen have nailed the way it feels to grow up. More than that, they have captured exactly what life feels like. Inside Out doesn’t try to mask life’s hard truths. Instead, it embraces the dark times. It looks hardship right in the face, and dares to find beauty in sadness. Our memories are rarely good or bad, joyous or sad. Usually, they’re tinged with a bit of everything, because that’s the way life itself is. Inside Out is stunning, and wonderful, and frustrating, and enlightening, and terrifying, and so many more things all at once. Inside Out understands all of that, and projects it back to the viewer on the big screen.
Overall: This has been a terribly difficult review for me to write, because it’s been a long time since I loved a movie the way that I loved Inside Out, and I want so badly to do it justice. Inside Out is a clever, heartbreaking, satisfying film that’s grounded in a beautiful combination of gentle humanity and honest truths. But the most important thing I want you to take from this review is the following: Inside Out is a wonderful movie, and I sincerely hope you’ll go see it.