IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 95 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
When a girl named Riley is born in Minnesota, within her mind, five manifestations of her emotions – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger – come to life. They live in Headquarters, Riley’s conscious mind, where they influence her actions and memories via a control console. When Riley is uprooted from her existence because her father starts a new job in San Francisco, turmoil ensures in Headquarters. Though Joy has up to now been Riley’s chief emotion, Sadness, whose purpose the others have never been able to understand, begins to first turn happy memories into sad ones, then makes Riley cry. Joy’s efforts to stop her accidently result in her and Sadness being transported to the labyrinthine storage area of Riley’s long-term memories…..
I think it’s fair to say that Pixar, while never yet having made a bad film, have been somewhat disappointing of late, and I was wondering if the audacity and invention which created animated masterpieces like Wall-E, Up and Ratatouille was a thing of the past, with the studio content to lazily churn out sequels and average efforts like Brave. However, the studio bounces brilliantly back with Inside Out, which is easily their greatest effort in some time. Incredibly imaginative, yet also containing that relatable emotional aspect which also makes many of their films stand out, it’s also amazingly weird and definitely the most ‘out there’ picture Pixar have made, proving to be perhaps too much so for some while alot of it will also go over the heads of very young kids, but the general excellence of the reviews it’s getting are totally justified, and there were times this critic was in Heaven at the incredible inventiveness on display from a film which was closer to something like Inception than any animated feature I can think of. A young girl’s emotions being controlled by the voices in her head, her memories are housed in coloured orbs which are sent into storage at the end of every waking period, five islands [looking like theme parks] which reflect a different aspect of Riley’s personality, the ‘Train Of Thought’….the sheer parade of ideas is nonstop and dazzling, aided by the usual stunning Pixar animation which here often seems to recall Tex Avery. One scene where Joy and Sadness find themselves stuck in the abstract section of Riley’s mind seems to be straining at the edge of the ‘commercial’ animated movie.
Of course all this can only go so far if there isn’t the strong story to go with it, and Inside Out, which began life in 2009 when co-writer/director Pete Docter started to notice changes in his daughter’s personality, is primarily about growing up, and the need to let go of childhood, and, most bravely, tells us that sadness need not be a bad thing, true joy coming when every emotion is recognised and dealt with healthfully – quite a psychologically complex stance to take for what is supposedly a kiddie cartoon, though it remembers to pile on the humour both subtle and unsubtle too. It’s also unafraid to be truly emotional – how on earth was I almost crying at the farewell to Riley’s imaginary friend? – yet it’s emotion that evolves out of the story and its themes and doesn’t become sappy, nor is it overdone. Pixar characters do tend to have a noticeable sameness of facial features and gestures, and I will say that the film isn’t the easiest to get ‘into’ at first, but this often genuinely hallucinatory, amazingly challenging, conceptually daring soon becomes quite superb and stays that way. Welcome back Pixar.