Every so often, you might hear someone use the word “chapter” to describe a handful of years in your life (usually in sequential order) that are distinguished by a major event, attitude, or goal. Whether it was your first day of school, the first year with your partner, or even a time of mourning, these chapters of our lives usually define who we are due to the knowledge and understanding that we gain from living through them. Inside Out, Pixar’s latest film in theaters this weekend, takes this wordy definition and simplifies it in a way that children will enjoy -- and one that adults might even remember fondly.
The idea of personifying formless thoughts or emotions isn’t too foreign for the teams at Disney and Pixar. This mastery was on full display throughout the film, as characters who initially seemed almost too cartoony for my cynical heart become endearing, thoughtful, and weighted.
The main characters are brought to life by a hilarious all-star cast with chemistry that is almost a signature branding for close-knit comedy masters. Joy (Amy Poehler) is at the hem of the controls within the mind of 11-year-old Riley, who is forced to leave her hometown, her best friend, and her hockey team when her father takes a job in San Francisco. For years, Riley’s personified emotions -- including Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and the newly integral Sadness (Phyllis Smith) -- were in charge of a happy young girl who had few problems in life, but with the move, they are as shaken as she is. What unfolds is a story about growing up, of course, but it’s also a comforting message about overcoming painful or devastating events in life.
Inside Out exists within the realm of whimsical childhood imagination. Even though Riley is growing up, she feels little bitterness and still maintains an attitude that allows the world inside her mind to exist in bright colors, winding corridors, and contain a population of unique supporting characters who work outside of the control station. Riley and Joy seem to experience this devastation in parallel ways, with Joy going through a personal, massive loss in the sob-inducing fashion that Pixar is practically famous for.
In a time where the conversations around child psychology seem to boom in the most unpleasant ways, Inside Out is a breath of fresh air, where emotions are embraced, explained, and understood. Beyond being an extremely fun movie that leads the viewer through a candy colored labyrinth, Inside Out is unafraid to confront the scary moments in our young lives and explain why we always move forward. While I don’t expect kids to overthink things in such a way, the film still stands as an exhilarating, heartwarming story that will have kids laughing at precious, goofy jokes, and adults beaming at the memories of how that felt.