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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Inside Out

I saw Inside Out yesterday and I'm still not sure about it. I did like it a lot; it's got heart and it's clever, like almost all Pixar films do. But I guess I was a little let down because of all the proclamations of greatness it had. It's a good film, but it's nowhere near the best of Pixar.

It follows a certain Pixar pattern, which we English teachers call "personification"--giving objects or abstract ideas human qualities. They did it with toys, insects, fish, cars, and now with the emotions inside a little girl's head. Riley is a typical little girl who, like everyone, has a variety of emotions in her brain. They are given names and form--Joy is the dominant, who is responsible for her happiness. But there's also Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. They each have a say in how Riley conducts her day.

The film gets quite detailed, and judging by the occasionally academic language, complex about emotion and thought, such as a trip through the area of the brain concerning abstract thought. There is also much talk about memories, which here are represented by orbs that correspond to the colors of the little emotions in her head. Some are happy, some sad, etc. The brain itself is mostly long-term memory--shelves and shelves of these orbs, some of which become obsolete and are taken away (such as all the presidents--I still have that memory).

When Riley turns 11, she and her folks move to San Francisco. Joy is determined to keep her happy, but Sadness keeps getting in the way, and they somehow end up getting sucked out of headquarters and cast adrift the rest of the mind. This leaves the other three in control of Riley, and she becomes impossible for her parents to deal with. She tries out for a new hockey team and quits upon her first mistake, and lashes out at her parents.

Meanwhile, Joy and Sadness, along with a long-forgotten imaginary friend, try to get back to headquarters to right her, even as aspects of her personality are crumbling.

Inside Out does a very nice job of representing how the mind works (I was reminded, though, of the more ribald way this is done in Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted  to Know About Sex). It also carries an important message that without sadness, joy kind of loses it's meaning, as the juxtaposition of the two that makes life a balance.

However, as an adult, this movie was a kind of horror film. Maybe its because I was having a bad day but it made me review my own emotions and the result was not great. I think it's imperative that an adult see this on a day when they are already happy--the film won't make them so. Children will probably delight in the bright colors and slapstick, and perhaps identify with Riley, but adults may leave needing to make an appointment with their therapists.

Still, this is a superb bit of animation. The voice talent is top-notch, with Amy Poehler as Joy, in what is perhaps the best voice work I've seen (heard) since Robin Williams in Aladdin. Phyllis Smith, who heretofore was only known for being on The Office, is great as Sadness (I loved the touch that she wears a turtleneck sweater--perfect apparel for someone who is perpetually in the dumps). Lewis Black, so great when he has breakdowns in his stand-up act or on The Daily Show, was the perfect choice for anger (Sam Kinison, of course, would have been the ideal choice).

Inside Out keeps the great legacy of Pixar alive. But you might want to take a Xanax first.

My grade for Inside Out: B+.

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