Starring Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Lewis Black, Richard Kind, Phyllis Smith, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan
Written by Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley
Produced by Jonas Rivera
Music by Michael Giacchino
Directed by Pete Docter
If one were to discuss the films in the last 20 years, the subject of Pixar Animation Studios is ineluctable. Pixar made its first step with Toy Story in 1995, a modern animation classic. Pixar in the following years proved its debut was no fluke with the series of highly regarded films like Finding Nemo, Wall E, Up, Ratatouille and The Incredibles. The movies were not only loved by the children, but also by the adults due to their ingenious writing, voguish comedy and emotionally boomy stories. 15 years after Toy Story, Pixar brought Toy Story 3 an excellent film and one of 2010’s best film. However the movie marked the end of Pixar’s golden period. The next films from the studios were Cars 2, Brave and Monsters Inc prequel which came and went to little fanfare, but quickly forgotten. Pixar’s also have superfluity of sequels in works, which includes Cars 3, Finding Dory and Toy Story 4. All fueled the point that classic Pixar which took ambitious chances with new innovative themes and well-rounded films would be giving way for more safe bet and conventional animation studio. There was however a ray of hope, Inside out, an enticing concept promised to explore the emotions. The early reviews and friends in social media indicated this was indeed a grand return for Pixar’s. I had some reservations based on the trailer, but still went into the film with the utmost optimism.
Do you ever hear a little sound in your head, telling you how to respond in a position? What if that voice in your head actually was in your mind? What if there are multiple voices in your head that help you address with all that life throws you? Well, Pixar has decided to elaborate on this concept, getting us a superimposed idea in a film that stands out in Pixar’s history as one of the most uniquely divers stories brought out in an animated film in a long time.
Riley’s inner feelings thought life was bang-up and couldn’t get better: until the family makes a sudden move from Minnesota to San Francisco. What could possibly happen? That’s exactly what Joy, one of the emotions that lives inside headquarters of Riley’s brain asks. Also living in headquarters are Anger (makes sure things stay fair), Disgust (saves Riley from being poisoned), Fear (keeps Riley safe) and Sadness (you’ll see). Things start going wrong when sadness touches Riley’s core memories and turning them blue. Everything gets escalates when core memories accidentally get swept up and away. Caught in the core memory spheres, Joy and Sadness struggle to get back to Headquarters as Riley’s personality islands start collapsing.
Chronicles of mental convulsion of a girl moving to another place, an overly familiar story already mastered by Miyazaki in Spirited Away (where film tries to choose externalize the girls dreads and sadness in a deeply farfetched spirited world). Even the concept of Inside Out is not original at all, especially to the reader of the long running British comic strip The Numskulls (A strip which treats body as machine) created by Malcolm Judge in 1962. Japanese have made a similar concept “Poison Berry in My Brains”, which was an adaptation of Setona Mizushiro work. Leaving aside the obvious copy and pasting of environments from other Disney movies (Sugar Rush in Wreck-It Ralph for example). Then of course there is Osmosis Jones, which is all about the adventure of tiny people who were involved in day to day life of Bill Murray. Let’s all calm down as getting inspired is new creative, so now the major question is will Pixar’s return to form or another flop in their five year downwards spiral?
The first things first, Positive. The story is simple, but delusory one. The movie introduces us to its Riley’s world whilst keeping away from the overused exposition. Once Again, Pixar has presented us with a beautiful animated film. It looks and sound amazing and is completely engrossing from the technical point of view. All of the voice cast for the feelings were great, as Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, and Lewis Black bring their own feelings to these roles. Lewis Black and his style of comedy perfectly fits right for his character as Anger, and Phyllis Smith as Sadness brings her grim, dejecting style to her best. What also works for Inside Out are the different layers of Riley’s mind, where her mind is like a psychology book filled with bright animation for children to perceive as well. There is good amount of humor in the film and a lot of it works; different jests as Joy and Sadness navigate Riley’s brain works perfectly and gets some great laughs; scenes involving Anger, Disgust and Fear also play very well and at times hilariously true. I wish that I could only say good things about the film, but unfortunately there are disappointing moments as well.
This is where problem comes to me. After wonderful first 25-30 minutes the characters pretty much stay the same, they feel only one single dimension. It’s strange to spend so much time with five feelings (According to Psychologists there are 27 Emotions, but Pixar limited to 5 Emotions to concentrate more on these major emotions) that are regulated to only one emotion. Director Pete Docter took around 90 odd minutes of very plain and predictable storytelling to us show us that “factual memories are complex, motley feelings are best” and destroyed his own message by relapsing to banality and chintzy laughs in the end.
There were other incredibly klutzy elements to this film, such as dreadful use of dramatic tension… at one stage to catch the Train of Thoughts during which the scene rose and tumble its intensity four times that’s way too much. I know writer was trying to falsify feelings but to my emotions at least multiple rises in tension with no pay off is vexing. I also found scenes that should have been distressing too melodramatic. There wasn’t enough going on in the real life and there is real bond with Riley; our lead role and the audience. She felt like character in Numskulls, a robot programmed by five emotions. The parent’s role were quite stereotypical as they come, and no other person has enough interaction with the Riley’s character to commiserate with her.
The film goes through so much effort to establish some rules & regulations for this imagery world inside the mind, but then makes story stretches which are convenient to the script and occur without account. The conflicts are insistent, and not especially farfetched. There is a real energy in the first twenty minutes, but it really dies off in a frustrating way, and never really comes back to life. It had magnificent potential, and it thwarted incredibly.
There is point when Joy comes across the Mind Workers and they send Breeze detergent ad memory to Headquarters by simply pushing it through a flap… but Joy & Sadness never tries to send the core memories to HQ back that way.
All in all, Inside Out is exactly what meets the eye when you watch the trailers for the film. It is missing the profoundness and intelligence that is, typically associated with Pixar studios. I liked Inside Out for what it is and not for what it could have been. I expected a lovely – striking tale about emotions but instead I got a decent, animated comedy about growing, which is nowhere near the animation masterpiece many believed it could have been.