“Inside Out” movie review

InsideOutThis is what we get from the creators of the beloved Disney-Pixar masterpiece Up? Prepare for a journey that not even Ms. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus could take you on. Finally get up close and personal with those little voices in your head. Only, despite the prolific amount of “joy” in the movie, you will likely exhibit a moderate ‘meh’ following the close at the denouement when all is better for Riley. Unlike the emotional rollercoaster in Up, this is a pretty well a straight forward ticking-time-bomb structured movie. Fairly predictable and lacks the magic of past Disney-Pixar films. Think Cars 2. The only redeeming quality of the movie is Amy Poehler’s character of Joy. If you loved Parks and Recreation, then you will love the character of Joy because she is pretty much the effervescent Leslie Knope. There are no extreme highs nor extreme lows…the movie fails to arouse a great deal of emotion from the audience. You will definitely not find yourself crying like you did in Up, and the characters of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust won’t find a place in your heart like the cast from Toy Story. 

Inside Out is the latest movie from Disney-Pixar and is about Riley, an 11 year-old, girl from Minnesota who moves with her family to San Francisco in order for her dad to pursue a career with a startup company. Deep inside the conscious of Riley, the personified and anthropomorphic voices in her head are busy managing her emotions during this dynamic transition in Riley’s life. Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black) all work together to see that Riley is feeling the way she needs to at any given moment while she is awake–or at least try to. Joy is the leader and attempts to see to it that Riley is joyous all the time. During a rough transitional period, emotions run haywire and Joy is unable to manage Riley’s feelings. Not meaning any harm, Sadness touches an otherwise happy core memory and the domino effect that leads to the destruction of feelings, memories, and emotions begins. After getting sucked from Headquarters into Riley’s longterm memory, Joy and Sadness must retrieve all the core memories and get them back to Headquarters before Riley retreats into a dark place and never returns.

This is Pixar’s big summer movie, but it feels more like a movie that should’ve been released during the spring or fall. It lacks that uniquely Pixar quality that we have come to love and expect from such masters of animated storytelling. The narrative struck me as something much closer to a DreamWorks film than a Pixar. Not that DreamWorks hasn’t had some hits–quite the contrary–they produced the Golden Globe winning film How to Train Your Dragon 2 last year and certainly had a major hit with Shrek and the first How to Train Your Dragon. But, typically Pixar movies stand as the epitome of the best in compelling animated storytelling. Visually, the film is quite colorful and personifies the voices in our head quite well. Unfortunately, the movie suffers from an inability to inspire the audience to fall in love with any of the respective characters; but the opposite is also true because there is not a deep dislike for the antagonist (which is essentially ‘time’) or opposition either. As most screenwriters will tell you, movies–even if time is truly the opposition or enemy–need the antagonist to have some type of physical representation. Simply stated, a movie needs a clearly defined external goal, and this film concentrates mostly on the internal goals.

Although not exemplary, we do have sufficient character development in Joy. She truly shows a great character arc that goes from someone who thinks she knows everything and how to keep Riley’s mind under control to knowing that all the various emotions need to work together in order to provide Riley with a healthy state of mind. The movie is definitely cute, and it has some great humor here and there. There are also many Easter Eggs from other Pixar movies as well. One of the funniest parts that most children will miss is the cliche imaginary boyfriend from Canada. In many ways, this movie feels like a filler movie to bridge the gap between movies until the highly anticipated Finding Dory and Toy Story 4. For those of you who really enjoy the Disney and Pixar shorts prior to the feature presentations, you will get a cute short film about two volcanos who fall in ‘lava.’ Although moderately entertaining, it was a cute way to begin Inside Out. The moderate cuteness and entertainment value in the short film is definitely indicative of the storytelling quality in the feature. It was a foreshadow of what was to be expected in Inside Out.

If you’re the parents of kids or you just love Disney-Pixar films, no matter the storytelling or entertainment value, then you will likely enjoy watching this movie. If you are looking for another Disney-Pixar movie to generate strong emotions and maybe even “joyous” tears, then this is may not be it. However, it has received high praise from other critics so far, so maybe there is something in this movie that I may have missed.

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