Let me first say that I absolutelly adored this movie. One of Pixar's best in quite a few years. I can already hear you say "how can a movie about emotions be any good ?". It's good, because it's not just about emotions. Also, this is going to be spoiler filled, so if you haven't watched this movie, stop right here.
So, Inside Out tells the story of a little girl named Riley and how moving from her hometown in Minnesota to San Francisco affected her emotions. Pretty good recap, right ? Don't worry, I'll get in depth soon enough.
Apart from the character of Riley, we have Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. Each of them has a role to play. Joy is there to ensure that Riley has a happy life, Fear is there for protection, Anger is there when things get messy, Disgust to ensure that Riley doesn't get poisoned, literally and figuratively, and Sadness doesn't really know her purpose. Think of Riley as a giant human robot and the emotions as the little guys inside controlling it. They even have a control panel.
Each of those little marble beads in the left are memories and their colour means what kind memory it is. Red : angry memory, Blue : sad memory ... you get the point.
As I was saying, when Riley arrives in San Francisco she finds it lifeless. She lost all her friends, she can't fit in among her classmates, she feels like she doesn't belong there. We all had a moment in our lives where we arrive in a new town and we don't know anyone. This movie brings that feeling marvelously.
While we see all of this with Riley, a whole bunch of other stuff happen inside her mind. Joy doesn't want Sadness to touch the memories, because they'll become sad, but Sadness cannot help it. A few 30 minutes or so in the movie, Sadness touches these memories that are unique, the memories that make Riley who she is. Joy fights with Sadness and eventually they both go into the subconscious, represented in this movie by a labyrinth of memories.
Because Joy and Sadness aren't in the brain area anymore, they can't control Riley anymore. So, the control panel is left in the hands of Disgust, Fear and Anger, what could possibly go wrong ?
Everything ! Everything goes wrong. Riley doesn't appear to be happy again (of course, Joy is not in the brain area) and she is rude against everybody, like in the dinner scene. While Anger, Disgust and Fear try their best to keep Riley being herself, Joy and Sadness are trying to escape the subconscious by getting on the dream train, which travels only once Riley is asleep. On their way there, they meet a curious fellow who turns out to be Riley's imaginary friend from childhood Bing Bong.
In the meantime, Anger is sick of doing nothing so he has an idea. He realises that Riley was happier when she was in Minnesota, so he implants that idea in the control panel. On their side, Joy and Bing Bong fall in the pit of forgotten memories and that leads to tears. Lots and lots of tears. Joy manages to come back so she goes fetch Sadness, for once and for all return to the brain area.
Once they arrive, the control panel is infected by the idea Anger has planted. They don't have any control over Riley. Only Sadness can help by touching the lightbulb/idea, and making Riley cry so she can realise that she's making a mistake.
Finally, when Riley gets home worrying her parents, she starts to tear up saying how she was much happier in Minnesota than in this new city and how she's terribly sorry for running away. Her parents are understanding towards that feeling and we get a group hug. While the hug is happening, both Joy and Sadness are touching the control panel giving a bittersweet memory.
And that's one of the main themes in the movie : growing up, acceptance, love for each other, caring, how emotions can blind logic and reason (like when Anger puts the idea of leaving San Francisco, Riley is so angry that her other emotions are useless). Of course, kids will like it because of the colourful characters, the animation and some of the jokes, but adults, having lived a lot more, will get the deeper message. That's why adults will enjoy it more, they will relate to it a lot more. We've all been little kids, we've all moved out at one point of our lives and we've all felt like Riley has, in some point of our lives.
This movie made me laugh, it made me cry and by the end of it I had the feeling like my stomach was a knot. When a movie about emotions makes you feel all sorts of emotions, it did it's job. In a movie where Joy and Sadness are the main characters and you felt joy and sadness while watching it, it did it's freaking job.