Pixar's back-to-form movie Inside Out gets creative with what goes on inside you head, hands out hearty laughter for free, and tugs gently on heartstrings -- but it's not all perfect. The story centers around an 11-year-old girl named Riley who moves with her parents to a new, far away home, and struggles to begin her new life there. Most of the time is spent literally inside her head as her emotions (Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling)) take turns at the console, responding to situations in Riley's life, and creating memories that define Riley's personality. Joy spends most of the time in control, but when things start to change and she begins to lose control she panics, and her every attempt to keep things happy and the way it used to be only makes things worse.
|Everybody panic now!!|
This film's super creative premise is its high point. From it comes all the neatest insights, funniest jokes, and most involving drama. And that is the order of what I was most impressed with. The Insights -- showing an explaining how the mind, personality and emotions work in a simplified, fantasy way -- worked really well, and felt very true to life. So much so, that I often found myself wishing that they'd gone even deeper with the idea. It stayed very basic during the movie, at a level that is understandable for the younger audience, but was too basic for my grown-up understanding. I grasped the concepts very quickly and immediately wanted more, but it is a kid's movie, so I didn't get it.
But, I was appeased by comedy. There were many great laugh-out-loud moments that I thoroughly enjoyed, but there was also plenty of great subtle comedy. The movie's default setting was funny, so though laugh-out-loud moments only came occasionally, I was almost always aware of, and amused by the underlying foundation of humor. I loved the dynamic between Joy and Sadness. They were the only two true standouts of the cast, and their conversations were naturally funny because of their clashing and extreme personalities. The rest of the cast and characters had their moments of course, but those two were consistently great under the pressure of being heavily featured.
|Sadness' inexplicable need to touch all the memories though... brilliant.|
The drama was a mixed bag. Half came across sincerely and I didn't mind being taken in to it, and half pushed too hard, was too unnecessary, and too contrived. The former took place mainly at the end of the movie, and the latter in mostly in the middle. Also the end-drama was directly related to the movie's premise and the middle-drama wasn't. That is not a coincidence -- the movie's most successful moments were always the moments that were close to that winning base idea.
The movie's main flaw was, basically, its entire second act -- the whole, entire plot of Joy and Sadness looking for, and finding a way back to the console room. I know, that makes it seem huge, but it was more of a missed or misused opportunity than anything else. (Or the film should have been about thirty minutes shorter.) It had a few, fleeting humorous moments, but was mostly just a sad excuse for filler. It wound up being down right boring as they tried different ideas but ended up exactly where they started several times, and then had some unnecessary rabbit trails, before eventually throwing together a lazy solution because all the good ideas had been used already. The only truly worthwhile things that happened in that section was the events in the control room, and a little of the character development between Joy and Sadness -- but only some.
|The creative way of portraying the mind was the only thing that kept that section going.|
Fortunately, the boring and unnecessary filler of the middle section did not at all bleed into the awesomeness of the beginning or end, both of which were full of the classic, meaningful, Pixar fun and creativity, and that helped leave the movie's impression in my memory as... a mostly joyful one.