Saturday, July 4, 2015

New Release! Inside Out (2015)

Director: Pete Docter & Ronaldo Del Carmen

Arguably the best Pixar movie yet. I can't exactly say it's my personal favorite, but it's one of the most brilliant movies, animated or otherwise, that you're ever likely to see.

Chances are you've heard about this movie's premise. If not, here's the quick summary. We get to see a few crucial days in the life of Riley, an 11-year old girl who is going through the troubling experience of moving from the hometown she loves in Minnesota to San Fransisco. The way we follow her experience is from the perspective of the five primary feelings in her brain: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Each one of these emotions serves a particular purpose in keeping Riley safe and healthy, though the purpose of Sadness is not made clear in the beginning. Each has a distinctive look and sound: Joy is an effervescent, greenish pixie; Sadness is mopey and frumpy; Anger is small and red, with flame shooting out of his head when irked; Fear is a neurotic, skittish, skinny basketcase; and Disgust is a prissy, self-conscious fashion maven.

The movie spans roughly the first 48 hours of Riley's arrival in San Fransisco. Through the actions and reaction of the five emotions in her brain, known as "headquarters," we get complete insight as to her attempts to deal with one undesirable situation after another. Most of the humor derives from when Fear, Anger, or Disgust are piloting Riley's actions. Anger, voiced by Lewis Black in arguably the greatest voice casting of all time, becomes a show-stealer time and time again. Seeing how Riley lives out these three feelings provides comic moments that are as great in any Pixar movie.

The movie goes far beyond quality humor, though. True to the very best Pixar films, Inside Out actually probes into deeper emotions in ways that any person over the age of three can sink his or her teeth into. As Riley begins to grapple with feeling alienated, homesick, and misunderstood by her parents, we see it all play out in headquarters. The previously well-established safe places in her mind start to crumble, and Joy and Sadness become lost and have to struggle with each other to return to headquarters. For Riley, this means a growing disconnect with her parents and anyone else whom she encounters. Any person who has experienced such alienation and confusion can relate to what is happening, and it is amazing how well the movie handles such profound and universal struggles.

Joy shows Sadness one of Riley's memories. The background
is the landscape of Riley's mind. This fertile territory is the
setting for one of the the most imaginative looks at how a
child can grow into adulthood.
On a side note, I am thankful that, for once, a Disney/Pixar movie didn't feel the need to kill one of the protagonist's family members to stoke the emotions of us viewers. One need look no further than the recent Big Hero 6, which was a fun enough movie, for the studios' most ham-fisted attempt at evoking sympathy. With Inside Out, no such brutality is needed. The film's much lighter tough is hopefully a message to current and future writers that a story can be deeply emotional without using horrifying tragedy. It's simply not necessary to burn a protagonist's kindly elder brother to a crisp when far more accessible experiences are on hand.

While my favorite Pixar movie is still The Incredibles, Inside Out will stand as a timeless masterpiece that has set a new bar for what family films can do. Walt Disney once said that he wasn't in the business of make great "children's" movies; he was in the business of making great movies. With Inside Out, Pixar has revitalized this ideal of its parent studio's iconic founder and set the bar even higher for future filmmakers.