John Lasseter has done it again. Inside Out, Pixar’s highly anticipated and candy-colored animated “emotion picture,” was presented off-competition in Cannes this morning to an enthusiastic press. Witty and smart, this is one heck of a mood swing from director Pete Docter, who has once again joined forces with Up co-writer Michael Arndt.
We first meet Riley as a newborn, her five emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader) — already at work, especially when her parents try to feed her broccoli. This Fab Five operate in her Head Quarters to avert her moods via their control board. Joy is the captain of this ship though for this is a happy little girl.
Riley (voiced by Kaitlin Dyas and inspired by Docter’s own daughter) is an 11-year-old girl hockey enthusiast leading a carefree life in Minnesota filled with her friends and family. But her world turns upside down when her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) relocate to San Francisco where her father is starting a new entrepreneurial job. Forced to leave her friends behind, the tween attempts to come to grips with her new life.
But after the miserable Sadness tampers with one of Riley’s “core memories,” transferring happy souvenirs into sad ones, she and Joy are inadvertently swept away into the far recesses of Riley’s mind, commonly known as Long Term Memory, leaving Anger, Fear, and Disgust at the helm of the control board – and the result is cataclysmic.
In the meantime, Joy and Sadness attempt to make their way back to HQ before something radical happens to Riley’s psyche. But they encounter many obstacles on their journey, namely Riley’s childhood imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind), a mishmash of different stuffed animals that mostly resembles an elephant with a cat’s tail. He leads them to places they’re not supposed to go to, such as Imagination Land.
And that’s what makes Inside Out so thrilling. The whole movie is an ode to imagination. It is extremely creative, witty and enthralling, an adventure that is amusing and moving without pulling on our heartstrings. (No, Sadness, I won’t let you.) We alternate from Riley’s life to the HQ in her psyche, watching her emotions operating and prompting her reactions. One of my favorite moments is when we are allowed a peek inside Riley’s parents’ heads. As an adult female, I, of course, could relate to her mom. We also get inside the minds of a bus driver, a dog and a cat as the credits roll, hilarious and delectable. Joy is clearly in control.
Inside Out prompts us to look into our sensibilities and moods. During the screening, I couldn’t help but wonder what my own emotions were up to, if Joy would remain with me even beyond the film or would I have to wait an hour in line for the next screening and not get in, causing Anger to push my buttons?
One of Pixar’s most creative ventures yet, Inside Out speaks to both kids and adults. The movie conveys that all emotions are necessary, that it is OK to feel fear and anger, to go from gladness to sadness, or to wrinkle your nose at broccoli in disgust.
It is a coming-of-age story for kids (and adults) that carries the following message from Pixar at the end of the closing credits: “This film is dedicated to our kids. Please don’t grow up. Ever.”