Inside Out – Pixar With A Warning Label
Has it really been 20 years since Toy Story? The tale of toys and their lives when their owners are away put Pixar Animation Studios and its computer-generated animation on the map. Not many startup businesses can say they inspired new Oscar categories. Pixar can; does anyone believe the Best Animated Feature Oscar would exist without it?
A merger with Disney (the distributor of the early Pixar films) led to some creative if not commercial missteps; there never should have been one Cars, let alone a second and now a third that is sadly in production. At its best, though, a Pixar film conveys a sense of wonder about the world that no amount of misfortune can take away.
This summer’s Inside Out follows many of the rules for Pixar storytelling. An unknown world of wonder faces outside threats but ultimately survives in a sadder, wised-up way. In this case, five different emotions of an 11-year-old girl named Riley are personified with 5 unique animated characters inside her head that keep her internal conflict voices in check. As her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, Riley struggles to understand the loss of all that she has known.
In this atmosphere, Riley’s emotions try to right the ship and maintain the happy little girl that she has always been. But Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger cannot agree on much. Sadness cannot restrain herself from touching the marble-shaped core memories, turning once-happy memories to sad ones, Riley grows unhappy and loses pieces of herself. Joy and Sadness fight over these changes and find themselves ejected from their headquarters into Long-Term Memory. There they find they must work together to save something of Riley as she loses her internal compass.
Pete Docter has put his stamp all over the movie. The director and co-screenwriter is a Pixar veteran (the third animator hired by the fledgling studio), his work as a director includes the 2009 film Up. The opening set piece in Up dealing with life, love and loss was not only one of the most profound works of animation but the reason this movie should have won not only Best Animated Feature but also Best Picture at the Oscars.
Docter is helped here, as usual, by wonderful voice actors. Amy Poehler captures the can-do spirit that makes Joy such a strong character. Lewis Black’s short-fuse temper works well as Anger, who resembles a miniature volcano in looks and personality. Riley’s largely forgotten invisible childhood friend Bing Bong (voiced by Richard Kind) comes off as the goofy, lovable pink elephant every little child should have in his or her life.
Bringing together action, slapstick and a childlike sense of wonder, “Inside Out” creates yet another strong Pixar story. The fact that it is all but guaranteed to win its own Best Animated Feature Oscar does not make it run of the mill in any way. The movie’s insights and humane spirit make it excellent entertainment for all ages.
Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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