Friday, June 19, 2015

A Reel Review: INSIDE OUT

When it comes to creating a film which works for both kids and adults, Pixar has been the leader from their beginnings. It’s a delicate balance to strike; dumb it down too much and the adults will be bored, make it too complex and the kids will be bored. In the case of Pixar’s newest, INSIDE OUT, that fine line is not only walked on…but moved. 

Riley (Kaitlyn Davis), is an 11-year old girl who has just moved to a new town with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan). Her actions are controlled by her emotions; Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith)…all of whom battle for control in her mind. 

INSIDE OUT is a high-concept film which takes great care to establish its universe; a universe where every element of human behavior is given a physical manifestation. Riley’s emotions are characters who reside in her brain (referred to as headquarters), memories are represented as orbs (a different color for each memory; sad, happy, etc), personality traits are seen as islands (family, friends), dreams are created in a Hollywood-like production, imagination gets its own land, and long-term memories are disposed of once no longer needed. It is a fascinating examination of how human beings work; represented on-screen as a large factory complete with (physical) trains of thought and an old imaginary friend who lives in the sub-conscious.
But building a world is one thing; knowing what to do with it is another…and this is where INSIDE OUT excels. Director Peter Docter and co-director Ronnie del Carmen utilize every inch of this world. As Riley struggles to adapt to her new home and school, Sadness “corrupts” her happy memories, which leads to Joy and Sadness getting lost in her sub-conscious area…which leaves Anger, Fear, and Disgust in charge of her behavior. As Joy and Sadness head off on a mission to return to Riley’s thoughts, the film shifts to one metaphor after another, making for a engaging storyline that fascinates by the minute. It’s a literal emotional journey. 

The design of the characters and the way they behave should be an easy sell for the kids, and the adventure they take on should be equally entertaining for young minds. The high level of sophistication of the film will likely sail over their heads, and adults will eat up the ongoing metaphors. It’s almost too high-level for the wee-lads as they likely won’t fully appreciate the film until years to come, which makes INSIDE OUT the type of film that lasts a very long time. 

From a technical standpoint, Pixar has never done better. The animation is stunning, the pacing is quick and humor is never stupid-level. Michael Giacchino’s score is perfect; sweeping when it needs to be and emotionally rewarding at all times. The voice-cast is perfect for every character, with Lewis Black’s Anger and Amy Poehler’s Joy getting the most and best work. The show is nearly stolen by the imaginary friend who lingers in Riley’s sub-conscious (voiced by Richard Kind). 

There is a lot to take in when viewing INSIDE OUT, and as time goes by both child and adult will find something new about it. The physical forms of the emotions could be used as a teaching tool to kids by teachers and parents, which gives INSIDE OUT even more staying power. Perhaps the best part about it is the (ahem), emotionally rewarding ending and the message it carries…which will have everyone’s inner-gears turning long after the film wraps. INSIDE OUT is not only a great kids’ flick, but an example of true cinema and its power. 


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