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‘Inside Out’ Review: A Huge Success for Pixar

Pixar’s newest animated masterpiece is finally here! Inside Out brings Pixar back into the world after a slump that lasted far too long for most Pixar lovers. The Disney-owned company, known for popular classics like UpToy Story, and Finding Nemo, is known for the care and dedication it puts into its work. The producers and directors tend to take years to make movies because they want to exceed expectations and make something that audiences everywhere will love. More often than not, they succeed. Inside Out is no exception, and has been receiving blockbuster sales and critical acclaim. Here’s why (don’t worry, no major spoilers).

What’s Going On Inside Our Heads?

Created and directed by acclaimed Pixar director Pete Docter (Up, Toy Story, Monsters, Inc.), in conjunction with Ronnie del Carmen and Jonas Rivera, Inside Out provides an answer to the age-old question “How do our minds really work?” in its own special way. The animated film tells the story of Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias), an eleven-year-old girl who moves to San Francisco with her parents (Kyle MacLachlan, Diane Lane) so that her father can start a new job. Riley’s thoughts and actions are controlled by her personified emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). They all live together at Headquarters, a not-so-subtly-punning name for the “control room” within Riley’s mind. There, they work to help Riley live a happy life and make quality memories, which are the building blocks of her personality. However, they are caught unprepared for the family’s move to San Francisco. As a result, they must scramble to keep up with the many new and unexpected experiences and challenges that occur due to this life-changing event.

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Joy leads her fellow emotions in running Riley’s life. When Sadness begins to play a bigger part in Headquarters due to the stress of the move, conflict arises among the emotions (*ahem* mixed emotions), which translates into Riley’s daily thoughts and actions. The five must figure out new ways to work together so that they can help Riley understand and cope with this difficult time in her life. Of course, this is only made more complicated when Joy and Sadness take an unintended trip to the deep parts of Riley’s mind and witness the changes that are beginning to occur there.

Take A Trip Into the Mind, Pixar-Style

Docter’s first ideas for this movie came into being about five years ago when he began seeing his daughter’s personality change due to the fact that she was starting to grow up. He and his team did extensive research into the mind and consulted numerous psychologists in preparation for the film. This careful research is evident in the movie, since Inside Out goes into an impressive level of depth about mental phenomena. What Pixar has delivered to us this summer is the highly entertaining result of their hard work.

As one can expect from a Pixar film, Inside Out is simultaneously amusing and emotionally deep (to the point of being able to make even a grown man cry, of course–I know, because I cried). Making such a cerebral movie would have been a big challenge, and the way that Docter and his team have answered this challenge is downright clever. They developed Riley’s mind simply and creatively, with succinct and effective explanations, and with patterns of cause and effect. Her personified emotions help her create memories. Her memories create and operate her personality. New experiences threaten her personality and cause it to change. Riley’s emotions must work to keep up with the change and learn how to cope with things they’ve never experienced, which creates a memorable adventure. As the adventure progresses, the characters meet other parts of Riley’s mind and discover her mind’s inner workings. Funny little mind workers mill around maintaining Riley’s long-term memories. A theater creates Riley’s dreams. We even get to meet a certain lovable, fluffy, pink character who kind of steals the show.

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For a kid’s movie, this film is actually quite detailed in terms of mental functions. This has led to mild criticism, because kids (and even some adults) might not be able to fully understand all of the mechanics involved. Fortunately, though, the parts that might be considered too complicated are fairly minor and are mainly used to produce a laugh or create suspense, conflict, or an answer to a problem. Aspects of the mind such as imagination, long-term memory, the subconscious, abstract thought, forgetfulness, and dreams are all given importance and accurate, comprehensible explanations. Each one of them helps the story along, and all of them respond to changes in Riley’s mind and her environment. As the story progresses through each of these parts of the mind, Riley’s emotions, particularly Joy and Sadness, learn how to do their jobs better.

The Feels, the Fun, the Future

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With a 9/10 rating from IMDb, a 98% from Rotten Tomatoes, and a 93% from Metacritic (all higher than the ratings for Chris Pratt’s blockbuster Jurassic World, which had the highest-grossing opening weekend in US history), this is definitely a movie to add to your watchlist, and is worth seeing on the big screen. The animation, which actually seems more like Disney’s style than Pixar’s, is gorgeous. The plot is original and believable. The thoughts and emotions of an eleven-year-old girl are well-researched and apparently quite accurate. The voice acting is superb. Everything meshes together quite well and makes for a great story.

If there is anything particularly lacking about this film, it’s that there is so much more that could be done with what has been set up. So many other events could happen in Riley’s life that her emotions have to respond to, and so many other emotions could be introduced and given significance. Unfortunately, not all of this could fit into an hour-and-a-half-long movie, but hopefully there will be sequels. There’s certainly enough setup at the end for one–or two or three. Who knows? This could be the next Toy Story. It has that kind of potential.

When I walked out of the theater, I was so impacted by this movie that I started thinking about how my own emotions were controlling my life right then (mainly Joy during the movie and Sadness because it had just ended). In light of this experience and the fact that I’m still turning it over and over in my head, I can’t help but think that this is one of Pixar’s best movies yet. They successfully blended the complicated with the simplistic and have delivered a movie that fans will love, young and old alike. So if you’re looking for a great new family movie, look no further than Inside Out, in theaters now.

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