Summary: Another great Pixar movie that, while a bit slow in the middle, turns out to nail aspects of growing up, pain and happiness with great voice work, a unique and clever plot and plenty of crying. Monkey says definitely check out this movie.
It ain’t a Pixar movie unless you cry at some point (Up, Lilo and Stitch, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 2…) and boy oh boy, I teared up and almost starting bawling at the end. When this monkey looked around, the entire theater was filled with people crying. My 17-year-old daughter was crying as well. Why? Because this movie hits us right where it hurts – nostalgia for our families, our kids and how they grow up so fast, and the pain that is part of life that often leads to happiness and reminiscence. The message “sadness is a key part happiness” is a unique, if accurate, take on life.
Excellent voice work by Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Diane Lane – to name a few. Directed by Pete Docter (Up, Monsters, Inc.) – who also co-wrote the screen play. Another classic from Pixar.
Without spoiling the plot, the movie takes us from the birth of a daughter, Riley, and her five emotions that develop during her childhood in Minnesota (Sadness (Phyllis Smith, Phyllis from The Office) , Fear (Hader), Joy (Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black)). Her family relocates to San Fransisco when Riley is 11, and she has a hard time adjusting. Add that to her father’s stress in his new job, Riley starting a new school and feeling like an outsider, their furniture not arriving and the groundwork is laid for some common problems families face (though all heaped on one family).
The cast is well selected, and the plot is one that will be familiar but unique. The movie begins to slow a bit in the middle as everything starts to go terribly for both the emotions and Riley, and she starts to lose certain childhood traits as she’s exposed some ugliness that we all had to face. Richard Kind (Mad About You, Spin City) as Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend from childhood is amazing in his subtlety of emotions and voice work. And again, the message is not an obvious one as most movie goers (Monkey himself as well) will quickly take to Amy Poehler’s “Joy” and her message of “always be happy” – and look down on her antithesis Sadness (Phyllis Smith) always trying to pull everyone down. But later in the movie, some very important points on both are made.
An interesting take on the animation is that it’s Pixar good – meaning remarkable – but doesn’t attempt photo-realism, which is a smart move. At some point, if technology continues to improve as it has, some of these computer animated movies are going to look too realistic. And there’s a revulsive effect that takes place when the mind sees something that looks nearly real but is not quite there. Pixar is intelligently making things look cartoonish in Inside Out. But the quality is very much still there, with the camera angles, reflective properties and emoting of the characters done so well, you don’t even notice. Solid animation. (I read a negative review on this movie where the commentator suggested that the animation is not realistic, the characters are fuzzy and cartoonish, etc. without realizing that this was done on purpose – my opinion).
There’s a short vignette called Volcano that precedes the movie. A happy little episode about two volcanoes that fall in “lava”. It’s good but not great, and is all set to the lyrics of a song written by and sung by the director of the short, John Ford Murphy. Geez, even that short made the Monkey sniff a little. Maybe the Monkey needs some anti-depressants?
There’s some skits during the credits that are worth watching, giving us an insight into the emotions of other characters in the movie and even cats.
Overall, in a time when Disney’s acquisition of Pixar made us all worry that the quality of the movies, the scripts and animation would suffer as The Mouse’s corporate hand would close around Pixar’s creative throat, this movie shows that it’s still in good hands and can still churn out poignant and intelligent fare. It’s entertaining for the young and old, but the message will be lost on the single-digit-aged kids.
Monkey exudes his Joy in saying, it’s a must see, but bring tissues!