Inside Out might be the most creatively unique and interesting film of the year thus far, with a visual style and fleshed out world that is awe inspiring, and makes you appreciate the work of the filmmakers behind a film like this. Everything is well thought out and executed with precision, with the emotions inside Reilly’s head acting and talking in a way which makes us reflect on the type of activity that must be going on in our own heads on a daily basis.
Speaking of the emotions, let’s get into the plot of the movie. We follow Reilly and her family, as they movie from Minnesota to San Francisco, and see what that does to a 12 year old girl who, like all of us, is guided by her emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust). However, to add onto the mounting problems facing Reilly in this new scenario life has thrown at her, Joy and Sadness ( who always feels left out because none of the group know what she’s supposed to do) get separated from Headquarters (where all the emotions do their thing) and must find their way back, or else Reilly will be stuck without those emotions, and as we should know, it takes all of our emotions to make up our personality and who we are.
The strength of this film lies in world building, and how they set up the world inside Reilly’s head, such as the system that’s in place for storing different memories, along with the stylistic representation for Headquarters in itself, and how each emotion implements their will on whatever situation in Reilly’s life calls for it. Well, they don’t really know what Sadness is good for so they try to keep her as far away from the controls as possible.
Going deeper into this world, we learn about things like imaginary friends and Reilly’s personality based on what is being stored in her head. Everything is done in a very unique and creative way, with precise direction and visually stunning animation. It is a visceral experience from a visual standpoint, and is the type of movie that restore our faith in Hollywood regarding creative and original filmmaking.
With all of that being said, this film is not without its faults, and these faults show themselves in the actual narrative elements of the film. This film is remarkably creative, yet decides to tell a very familiar and cliché story. The film takes a turn, not necessarily for the worst, but more like for the not as good, when Joy and Sadness get lost in the confines of Reilly’s head and must find their way back to Headquarters. The film takes a slight dip because it feels like the filmmakers took the easy way out.
The story goes from watching these emotions interact and control Reilly’s life, to the three remaining emotions (Anger, Fear, Disgust) miserably failing without Joy and Sadness, and Joy and Sadness must learn more about each other to ultimately learn their own place within Reilly’s head. It is a story that’s been done before, and yes, while Joy and Sadness are exploring the confines of Reilly’s head on their way back to headquarters, the world around them is intricately set up and defined, yet the story this film focuses on, exploring the relationship between Joy and Sadness, is too simple and familiar, which didn’t resonate with me as an audience member as much as it could have. The film was still enjoyable and had a sense of wonder, but it lost its edge when it fell into that very familiar story.
With all of that being said, I will give this movie credit for taking some turns in the narrative which you would not expect, and these turns took place outside of the adventure of Joy and Sadness, since there weren’t many surprises there. Life without Joy and Sadness back in headquarters forces the other emotions to try and fill in, and the different directions that this takes Reilly’s characters seemed a little more mature and interesting than one would expect from a film aimed primarily at kids,
Overall, this was a solid, good film, yet it left me a little disappointed because it could have been great. The creativity and world building of the film, however unique and well done, couldn’t make up for the familiarity of it all, which in return failed to resonate with me much. I left the theater enjoying what I saw, yet disappointed in what could have been.