a critiQal film review Inside Out (2015)

Plot: Riley (Dias) is a happy, hockey-loving 11-year-old Midwestern girl, but her world turns upside-down when she and her parents move to San Francisco. Riley's emotions -- led by Joy (Poehler) -- try to guide her through this difficult, life-changing event. However, the stress of the move brings Sadness (Smith) to the forefront. When Joy and Sadness are inadvertently swept into the far reaches of Riley's mind, the only emotions left in Headquarters are Anger (Black), Fear (Hader) and Disgust (Kaling).

647 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 14s)

Pixar has done a lot over it’s history. Just 20 years ago, a little movie about toys coming to life hit theaters (Toy Story (1995)), and, like a film called Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) before it, changed animation as we know it. Since then, Pixar has given us monsters to care about (Monsters, Inc. (2001)), a quest for a little fish (Finding Nemo (2003)), fun with automobiles (Cars (2006)), a Fantastic Four movie that worked (The Incredibles (2004)), a rat chef (Ratatouille (2007)), a non-speaking robot that stole our hearts (WALL-E (2008), a Scottish warrior princess (), and a gruff old man whose story tore us apart in the first 5 minutes (Up (2009))….not to mention a bunch of memorable short films. They’ve made us laugh, they’ve made us cry, they’ve made us care about so many characters. Most importantly, they’ve given us back the wonderment of going to the movies.

So, what does Pixar do to celebrate 20 years? They give us Inside Out, a film about our emotions. Sounds like a sure fit, doesn’t it? With a trailer that made us crack up, this one was definitely on our must-see list from the get-go. But, could Pixar continue to soar to new heights – or would Inside Out be another A Bug’s Life?

On the surface, Inside Out seems to be right along the lines of all of Pixar’s films. They introduce us to some new characters, and give us a scenario that will pull at our heartstrings while making us laugh. This time it’s a bit more obvious, with character names like Joy and Sadness, but it still seems to be the same basic setup.

At first, things seem to be going along just fine. We start caring about this girl, Riley, and by way of her, the emotions controlling her. But, something seems to be a bit off. As the movie continues, that emotional investment the viewer usually gets towards Pixar’s characters never fully develops, and the characters don’t quite take over our imaginations like their counterparts have before.

It’s not the voice actors’ fault, since, as usual, Pixar seems to have hit the proverbial nail on the head with it’s casting once again. Lewis Black, especially, seems to be a perfect fit to take on the role of Anger. The rest of the cast, although not as easily recognizable, seem to be just as well suited for their roles – they just don’t seem to be having any fun with them.

Like Riley herself, the film as a whole is overcome with a bit too much sadness, leading the viewer to distance themselves a bit from the characters. Even though the happy ending is a foregone conclusion (it is a Pixar movie, after all), the viewer pulls back more and more as the film falls off the deep end into a spiral of sadness (even Joy, who, by way of the emotion she’s supposed to be representing, should never be worried, breaks down and cries at one point). Sure, they manage to get back to the happy ending eventually, but by that point it’s a bit too late, and the quick wrap-up doesn’t have enough time to combat that spiral of disinterest that’s built up over the course of the film.

While most Pixar films manage to pull the viewer in throughout, adding humor and wit along the way to brighten the journey, Inside Out is all about the sadness, with most of the best jokes given away in the trailers. The viewer comes away from the film feeling like Pixar didn’t produce the movie magic we’re used to, and instead gave us a film that seems a bit off. Maybe it’s the sadness of knowing that Inside Out is a bit of a miss for Pixar.

That’s OK though. Nobody can win ’em all – and we already have The Good Dinosaur (2015) and Finding Dory (2016) to look forward to.

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