Friday, June 26, 2015

Inside Out Review

I love Pixar's movies as much as anyone else. Even though I liked Brave, their last three movies were subpar. We may possibly have that opinion because we'd been spoiled by their previous amazing titles such as WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3 and have come to expect similar quality films. Pixar's latest movie, Inside Out (2015), has brought a renaissance in the quality of movie that we've come to expect from their whimsical and emotional stories and characters.
Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is a happy, hockey-loving 11-year-old Midwestern girl, but her world turns upside-down when she and her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) move to San Francisco. Riley's Emotions -- led by Joy (Amy Poehler) -- live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. However, the stress of the move brings Sadness (Phyllis Smith) to the forefront. When Joy and Sadness are inadvertently swept into the far reaches of Riley's mind, the only emotions left in Headquarters are Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Joy and Sadness get help from Riley's old imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind) as they try to get back to Headquarters. Without the full range of emotion, Riley begins to suffer even more emotional pain which begins to have detrimental effects on her personality.
Pixar is notorious for their innovative stories and creative settings. Inside Out was no different. There are effectively two stories going on; the one with Riley and her parents, and the one about the emotions inside Riley's head. Both are interesting and affect on the other. The setting is highly creative and frankly a bit complicated. It's an indication of superior storytelling to present a unique and complex world with specific rules in a short amount of time and in such a way that even the very young audience members can understand it. Here's a trailer which does a remarkable job if showing how part of this imaginative world works in just two minutes:

As a psychology major, Inside Out fascinated me. While the world within Riley's head is full of brilliant colors and whimsical characters and places, it stays pretty accurate to how the brain functions, albeit in a metaphorical way. Psychologiests and other experts were consulted so the writers could make the way Riley's mind works scientifically accurate. For example, it is believed that short-term memories made during the day are converted into long-term memories during sleep. As Riley goes to sleep, the Emotions send the short term memories they've created that day down to long-term memory. A major theme in the story is that being happy is good, but no one can be happy all the time. It also explores the idea that experiencing a full range of emotions, including being angry, scared, or sad, is not only normal but healthy. Inside Out doesn't become preachy by any means, but it does thematically address aspects of emotional and psychological health that are frequently overlooked.
The character of Riley is going through a lot of changes. She is uprooted from her familiar home and moved to a place very different from what she is used to. Riley is experiencing all the anxieties and problems of being the new kid at school. She is growing up and maturing beyond some things she valued at younger stages of her life. And to top it all off, she has the pressure of trying to remain happy in order to show support for her parents when she is clearly unhappy. These are things anyone can relate to, and like many other Pixar movies Inside Out amps up the emotions and really get to you. It's very likely that you'll cry during this movie, though possibly not as much or as quickly as you did seeing Up.
Pixar as always boasted stellar animation, and Inside Out raises their already high bar. The Emotions have a subtly bubbly texture to their skin. Originally the bubbly texture was just supposed to be on Joy, but due to the difficulty of animating this unique design it was scrapped all together. But when Pixar's Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter, saw it he loved it and insisted that all the characters have it. This caused the technical staff a painfully larger amount of animation work and impacted the budget, but the result is amazing and gives the characters a warm, fuzzy look. There's even some neat things done with lighting, not the least of which includes Joy glowing whenever she gets excited, which makes light dance around objects and other characters around her.
Inside Out is inventive, magnificently animated, emotionally moving, and is a return to the high quality of movies we expect from Pixar.  The cast couldn't be more perfect, especially Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith; they vocally embody Joy and Sadness with inspiring perfection. The many themes the movie tackles combined with emotional intensity and commentary on mental health makes Inside Out seem like a therapy session where everyone ends up crying and hugging each other. This is the kind of movie we want to encourage Pixar and other studios to keep making. I highly encourage you to see this in theaters, and get a copy of when it hits home video.

Osmosis Jones features characters inside of a body to help it function on a biological level, whereas Inside Out featured characters inside of a mind to help if function on a psychological level. Can you think of other movies featuring characters making a body function like these examples? Comment below and let me know!

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