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Directed by: Pete Docter

Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind, Kaitlyn Dias

When Pixar began to make movies years ago, they figured out the secret ingredient. Make the movie bright and colorful, with just enough well-defined characters in fantastic situations to keep kids (and the parents) interested in the film. We’ve seen Pixar hit gold with the majority of their films (Toy Story 1-3, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Brave, Up!, etc.) and with Inside Out it’s another example of the Pixar magic coming to life once again.

It begins with a focus on Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) as a baby. In her mind, there is single thought that rings out. This is Joy (Amy Poehler) who is a pixie-like being that dances and zooms around in Riley’s brain. Joy is alone, until she is joined by Sadness (Phyllis Smith), who is another emotion come to life inside of Riley. They a soon joined by Fear (Bill Hader) and by Anger (Lewis Black) and then by Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Each is personification of that emotion with a color-coded hue.

Riley is 11 years old and Joy has been the overwhelming force in her brain. The Control Center that all of the emotions work in looms high over the large area of old memories in long-term storage. There are some big islands of character, such as Family, Honesty, Goofiness, and Imagination. She lives in Minnesota, so one of the islands is based on Riley’s love of playing Hockey.

However, due to her father getting relocated for his job, her parents have to move to San Francisco, and Joy is pushed to the limit. She has pretty much been the most powerful and primary emotion for Riley, and she is tired. with the move and changing of schools, Riley has a difficult time adjusting to the new status quo. This puts the team on red alert for most of the film. Sadness begins to question if she herself has any purpose and roams around touching old memories and making them blue, much to the dismay of Joy. There are some Core Memories that keep Riley (and her Character Islands) strong. If these turn any other color, Riley might be in deep trouble…

There is a confrontation between Joy and Sadness, and both of them accidentally get taken out of the Control Center tower. They wind up out in the depths of Long-Term Memory. They need to make their way back before Riley spirals further out of happiness and into despair, but it is a difficult path. Sadness, having read every manual on Riley’s mind, starts to guide them both back to the Control Center, but her way takes them the long way there. Joy sensing the urgency to get back keeps pushing Sadness to move quicker.

They then run into Bing Bong (Richard Kind) who is an imaginary friend that Riley made up when she was very young. He is a strange creature made up of the things that Riley liked when she was three years old; part elephant, part lion, part dolphin, and he is made of cotton candy and he cries out hard candy from his eyes. Bing Bong leads the pair to find the way back into Riley’s brain Control Center.

They pass through many bizarre and hilarious areas; such as a room of Abstract Thought, a Pre-School Adventure Land, The Dream Production studios and they even are able to hop on board Riley’s “Train of Thought”. But every night many of the old and obsolete memories are dumped into “The Abyss”, a pit where they slowly fade into nothing.

The whole movie is very well done and the voice acting is terrific all around. The idea is excellent, with the five different emotions having very defined personalities and little quirks. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith become the two most important stars. They carry the movie with the quest to get Riley’s Core Memories back. Not to be forgotten in the film as well are: Kyle MacLachlan as Dad, Diane Lane as Mom, and John Ratzenberger as Fritz.

The animation is bright and clever, and it will keep a child occupied while giving the adult a good sense of Riley’s inner world. The characters learn that Riley needs them all to cooperate and to equal, so that Riley can have a truly stable personality. There needs to be some Sadness with the Joy.

Inside Out can be a light-hearted silly movie one moment, and then it has a few times when it is darker and more troubling. It explores the ideas of imagination, cooperation, growing up and self-sacrifice. Those are some big concepts for the younger set, so Pixar always keeps the animation at the kid’s level. The movie’s handling of a child’s loss of innocence is more adult and very heavy at times, enough so to make this hardened movie vet catch something in his eye.

It is an excellent effort, and it will rank among the top movies from Pixar. Plus it made the 3D version of the movie actually work in its favor, by making the character movement and the vastness inside Riley’s mind look cool.

Length 102 minutes

Rated PG

9/10 Stars

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