Expectations are funny things, they seem to be created for no other reason than to be smashed to pieces in a cinema world engulfed in some obsessive compulsion to stick to sequels or adaptations. Pixar, a company known to myself and largely the movie-goers’ world as a beacon above remakes, have recently been in somewhat of a dud, producing average flicks like Cars 2 and Brave; Monsters University though an improvement not up to the stellar inventiveness of the studio’s past, falling victim to the sequel obsession itself. Inside Out is their embarkment out of the pit and lighting the beacon brighter than it’s ever been before.
Riley, an 11 year girl is moved from her perfect life in Minnesota to San Francisco, sending the anthropomorphic emotions in her head to uproar as Sadness plummets her core memories, along with herself and Joy, out of the mind’s headquarters. The two, along with Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong, strive to return to HQ before Riley’s unstable psyche plunges her into ill decision.
Pete Docter’s ‘Imagination Land’ evidently directed these stellar 85 minutes in which kids and adults alike question the inner workings of their mind. All aspects are covered, from abstract thought to facts and opinions; the visual slapstick gags combined with deep wit are aimed to place Joy firmly at the joysticks in the heads of those watching the adventure. The cinematic enlightenment is nothing short of toys that can speak, monsters under the bed and robots than can love – here we have, almost unnervingly close to home, the depression of a child expressed in such a colourfully creative way that the memory ball of Inside Out sits just as high as Pixar’s finest efforts.
The meaning of it all is not only poignant, but absolutely crucial both for children and parents to understand as the best messages often are. As Walt Disney summed up almost perfectly, ‘for every laugh their must be a tear’, true to the course of the narrative throughout the film. Keeping oneself together, whether an 11 year old girl or a 20 year old man proved a difficult task, and precisely the point Docter was trying to put across. In terms of inventiveness, of being something new – Inside Out deserves infinite credit.
The emotions and Bing Bong are brought to live in stellar voice work by Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith and Richard Kind to name a few; the story twists and turns leaving the viewer unable to predict what’s coming next. Merida was always going to control her fate, Mike and Sulley were always going to end up at Monsters Incorporated, Mater was always going to be the successful dimwitted spy in a cheesy friendship finale – Riley has no such guarantees – Will the humans on the Axiom return to Earth? What will be the fate of Boo? Will the toys end up with Andy or not? Likewise, how will Riley escape her depression?
The animation is at once beautifully simplistic whilst deeply complex; the shapes of the emotions, the childish amalgamation of Bing Bong and the dull, muted tones of San Francisco all speak volumes in terms of meaning with the Pixar team at their most attentive here.
As a creative writer and someone regarded often as a pessimist, the fates of Imaginary friends, imagination lands and the expectation to be ‘happy’ are all heavy emotional burdens to bare, and so the film comes into its own, both through individuals and universally. Though we are not given the incredibly deep and beloved characters like Woody, Buzz, Mike and Sulley in particular, Riley in the grand scheme of things is Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. Riley is Pixar’s best creation as she is everyone, hilariously portrayed in the credit sequence as we embark into the heads of other characters.
As a woman texted throughout the entire film, a parent let their child shout and squirm and someone was rustling a bag for a good hour – Anger was pushing for control in my own HQ. Thankfully, Pixar have crafted something so beautiful, so attentive and so true to life that I was able to accept that such Anger was okay, as Fear, Disgust, Joy and most importantly Sadness shared my mind whilst I enjoyed Pixar’s unquestionable return to form and love letter for those doubting modern cinema’s ability to be unique.
Intensely engrossing and touching, Inside Out is close to cinematic perfection. Pixar’s pride and joy.