Inside Out is a full-length animated film from Pixar released in 2015, two decades after the studio's first full-length animated film Toy Story in 1995. This is a good time for me to briefly comment on the entire line of Pixar movies thus far. The way I see it, they fall into one of two broad categories. One is what I like to call the classic Pixar, comprising films that show lots of imagination with the fictional characters and the world they inhabit, while appealing greatly to the human heart and presenting wonderful themes. Examples in that category include Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Cars, and WALL-E. The other category is what I like to call the DreamWorks-like Pixar, with animated films that are generally more basic in plot development (similar to animated films from rival studio DreamWorks Animation) but still provide some kind of fun. Examples include A Bug's Life, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters University. (It's fine if you disagree with what category these movies should fall in, because it's all subjective anyway.)
So where does Inside Out fall in? For me, the movie straddles both categories. I would describe it as 50% classic Pixar and 50% DreamWorks-like Pixar, because it features plenty of the clever imagination that Pixar was known for in the beginning, while trying to do it all in a running time of about 90 minutes. I found myself engrossed at all the many neat things the minds at Pixar came up with. At the same time, I wished the movie were two hours instead of one-and-a-half hours so that I could immerse myself in the fictional world more deeply instead of taking quick peeks at everything going by. Obviously, this means I'm not giving Inside Out a 10 out of 10. However, it's still one of Pixar's better movies, not among my least favorites of the 15 Pixar movies released to date.
I will go ahead and describe the fictional world of this movie, but only partially because there is plenty of interesting stuff to discover over the course of the movie. Basically, the setting is the mind of a girl named Riley. The central part of her brain is represented by a control room where five emotions are working at a console: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. For each thing that Riley does, the five emotions at the console activate the controls to trigger the feeling that fits the situation. Just as a computer stores bits of data, the activation of emotions from the console produces glass orbs that store short-term memories, each with a specific color according to the feeling attached to it. Once Riley goes to sleep, those memories are filed away into a database of long-term memories.
I definitely admired the fictional content of Inside Out because it mirrors real-life human psychology. For example, when the emotions are fighting over the console and leaving Riley in an emotionally awkward situation, it's literally the familiar experience of emotional conflict. Also, when Joy tries hard to convince Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust to follow her methods, it's like the difficulty of being optimistic in the face of overwhelming negativity. If you think that sounds clever, you'll certainly enjoy the other parts of Riley's mind. Again, I'm refraining from providing too many details, because it is much more fun to discover them all yourself.
Basically, Inside Out involves two parallel stories, one about Riley and the other about Riley's emotions. The girl has had a happy childhood while growing up in Minnesota, all thanks to Joy handling most of the controls. But at the age of eleven, Riley learns that the family must move to San Francisco. Just as she arrives at her new home and begins feeling homesick, a chaotic situation in Riley's mind takes Joy and Sadness far away from the control console, leaving Anger, Fear, and Disgust to handle the work from headquarters. Obviously, it's a grim situation. Those three negative emotions cannot emulate Joy's happiness, and things only get worse for Riley as she struggles with her new life and for Riley's mind as parts of it start malfunctioning.
While Inside Out excels in creativity and imagination, it only goes so far in the emotional appeal department. There were a couple of scenes that made me laugh, but they weren't hysterical laughs like with Toy Story 2. That's not to say that Inside Out lacks emotion. If anything, the movie still has plenty of emotion, like some moments of happiness as well as a bit of fear during suspenseful scenes. But one emotion really stands out: sadness. Believe it or not, I am providing you with a word of caution about the last part of the movie. What happens there is rather serious, so much so that parents in the audience might unexpectedly find it unsettling, something Pixar has never really been known for. But don't let that sequence ruin your feelings about the rest of the movie, because Pixar still maintains its tradition of having things come together nicely.
At this point, I'm having my own emotional conflict. Inside my head, Joy and Sadness are discussing what my rating of this movie should be. Joy says that Inside Out presents a very interesting fictional world that makes a whole lot of sense, similar to Monsters Inc., but Sadness says that this movie has a noticeably faster pace than the earliest Pixar classics, more like Brave than, let's say, Finding Nemo. When I think about it, Inside Out is not awesome like the films of classic Pixar that I've rated 10 out of 10, but it's still better than Ratatouille and The Incredibles that I gave an 8. Hence, Inside Out is a 9 out of 10. And I am standing by that rating, even if Fear is afraid that Anger and Disgust will get upset over it.
Anthony's Rating: 9/10
(Review originally published at http://www.anthonysfilmreview.com/Film/I/Inside_Out.htm)