Inside Out—At Last

Inside Out Emotions-Anger-Disgust-Joy-Fear-SadnessAs many of you know, I’ve been sidetracked by illness this
summer and wasn’t able to review a number of new movies. The one that hurt the
most was missing Pixar’s Inside Out,
but as I eased back into attending screenings I felt I had to see current
releases before I could play catch-up. Now I have, and I feel obliged to weigh
in on this extraordinary and unprecedented film.

The concept itself is daring, as it takes us inside the mind
of a little girl named Riley, beginning at birth and focusing primarily on her
emotions at a crucial crossroads in her life. At the age of 11, she and her
loving parents move from Minnesota to a brownstone in San Francisco where, on
the cusp of puberty, she has to reinvent her life, make new friends, and adjust
to a completely different environment. The feelings that dictate her actions
and reactions are personified as Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger, all
expressively brought to life both visually and verbally. The dominant figure of
Joy is perfectly embodied by Amy Poehler’s ebullient, life-affirming performance…but
she has to work overtime to keep the other, more negative forces from
overtaking young Riley’s state of mind and her all-important “core memories.”
(Yes, you’ll find a fair amount of bona fide science in the picture, which
makes it all the more compelling.)

Inside Out is very
much a film for our time. One could posit that Walt Disney’s Pinocchio, which takes us on a highly
dramatic and affective journey, covers many of the same themes in the guise of
a fable. This film has a cloak of storytelling, too, but it lays its emotions

Inside Out- Joy - Fear - 680a

There is a reason why Pixar movies stand out as they do: no
one else puts such thought, care, research, and resolve into their work. What
director and co-writer Pete Docter has achieved is beyond anything I have ever
witnessed in a mainstream American film, animated or otherwise. That such a
deeply-felt, multilayered, emotionally honest story appears as a cartoon
feature may fool some people into thinking that it’s a story for kids and
parents alike. I can’t vouch for youngsters’ reactions, but it seems to me that
Inside Out touches the heart of
grownups first and foremost—parents in particular. It’s not just an exploration
of our innermost feelings, but a sophisticated probe of sense-memory.

To cite one example: I had an imaginary friend when I was
young. Many of us did, I’m sure. I haven’t thought about him in decades, but Inside Out brought him back into my
consciousness. The way the character of the wide-eyed, gentle Bing Bong is
depicted—and voiced by the inimitable Richard Kind—is incredibly moving and
indisputably real.

If, for some reason, you haven’t yet seen Inside Out, or don’t think it’s relevant
to you if you aren’t tagging along with kids to the theater, I urge you to
reconsider. It may be some time before you find another piece of entertainment
that offers an experience this rich and rewarding. To Pete Docter, co-director
Ronnie del Carmen, producer Jonas Rivera, and the many writers who contributed
to this endeavor (including voice actors Poehler and Bill Hader, who are
officially credited for “additional dialogue”), my congratulations. You have
made a film for the ages.


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May 2024