Director: Pete Docter
Starring: (voices of) Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind, Diane Lane, Kyle McLachlan
Run Time: 94 mins
‘Inside Out’ is Pixar’s latest addition to their catalogue of films, the geniuses behind the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy, ‘Monsters Inc’, ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Up’ for example, and after a couple of misfires with audiences (by misfires, the films were still very well-recieved), ‘Inside Out’ looks to buck that trend and set out to be the resurrection of what Pixar do best. On the director’s chair is Pete Docter, the mastermind behind ‘Monsters Inc’ and ‘Up’, who has come up with an extremely original concept of having the film set in the mind of an average child where personified emotions – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust who live in ‘Headquarters’ (ie. Riley’s brain) guide her through life in a hard move to San Fransisco from Minnesota. Pixar have spent a long time making this film, sitting last year out in terms of films in order to make a better quality film. With Pixar having so many hit films under their belt, can ‘Inside Out’ prove once again why Pixar are the leading studio in the animation industry?
‘Inside Out’ is an expertly crafted film – it is extremely original, emotionally satisfying, humorous but at times suitably dark and enthralling but what stops it from reaching the giddy heights of their very best films is its little too familiar narrative. The voicing cast are spot-on and the film is supplemented by a fantastic score by Pixar-regular Michael Giacchino. The pacing is perfect and the characters really resonate with the audience.
Although it doesn’t reach the emotional heights of ‘Up’ in its first five minutes, Docter creates another enthralling sequence showing the development of a young girl called Riley as she grows up to her 11 year old self – it’s simply staggering and wonderful and is very promising for what is to come. Docter manages to replicate this in the film many times through some fantastic, yet heartbreaking flashback sequences. The interactions between the five emotions is fluid and the five of them make a wonderful character study. Another scene is one that has featured in the film’s promotional material, a heated exchange between Riley and her parents where it is revealed that they too have emotions that control their thoughts and actions which are realised wonderfully – the script is perfect.
For Pixar, the film is very dark in places and for the better as it really helps to propel the film’s emotional factor. As humans do, the film fluctuates in its emotions – at times extremely happy and content and at times dark and depressing. The creative team behind the film have really put the hours in to come up with the right emotional balance. When Joy and Sadness get sucked out of headquarters (this makes up the film’s plot), the decisions taken by the other three emotions as to how to keep Riley emotionally balanced is beautifully realised and due to the outstanding character development, audiences can really relate to the characters.
Unfortunately, ‘Inside Out’ doesn’t quite manage to rank as one of Pixar’s best due to its, at times, overly familiar narrative and its predictability. The story is very linear in places and the plot is a little bit overly predictable. The audience know that Joy and Sadness will need to pass through some obstacles, there will be a point of no hope, then everything will be back to normal again. It’s a little too ordinary in this respect – if the story had perhaps meandered a little more and maybe included a couple of twists, then the film would receive the full 5 stars and rank higher. By sheer coincidence, the film does mirror Disney’s ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ a little bit which does stain the film’s plot a bit in the sense that the characters have to journey through different worlds to reach their destination.
It’s also very refreshing to see that Pixar continue to have a very lucrative marketing campaign, where they don’t reveal a lot of the plot in the trailers. This makes it all the more of a worthwhile experience as you get to experience the film as you watch it, not watch it in a condensed version in the form of a trailer.
Overall, ‘Inside Out’ is another winner from Pixar – it’s emotionally satisfying, humorous and the concept behind it is extremely original. It is well worth the wait and Pixar can be proud that they have another lucrative film in their hands. It is sure to be Oscar-nominated this year and deservedly so and will almost definitely take the win. As mentioned, the film would get the full 5 stars if it didn’t rely too much on its linear and familiar narrative which make the film a little too predictable – a couple of twists would have elevated this film even more, but it is still one of the best films of the year and one that must be experienced in the cinema this Summer. It will be interesting to see how ‘The Good Dinosaur’ turns out this Winter, the second of two offerings Pixar have this year – will it be able to replicate and improve on this film’s success?
On a side note, I must also praise the short film that accompanies ‘Inside Out’ which is called ‘Lava’ is a beautiful musical number and again tugs on the emotions in a staggering 7 minutes. It is one of Pixar’s very best and I really hope it gets recognised in Awards season.