“A Major Emotion Picture”
Directed by Pete Docter
Starring Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Smith, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan
11 year old Riley (Dias) is uprooted from her home in Minnesota when her Mum (Lane) and Dad (MacLachlan) move with her to San Francisco. The resulting turmoil is managed by Riley’s emotions, the five personifications – absurdly perky Joy (Poehler), neurotic Fear (Hader), splenetic Anger (Lewis Smith), discerning Disgust (Kaling) and morose Sadness (Phyllis Smith) – who live in her head and regulate her inner life.
Riley’s personality is built on her happy core memories, but after the move Joy struggles to keep old memories from being tainted by Sadness. When a new, sad core memory forms, Joy’s tries to prevent its integration into the whole, but manages to send all of the core memories, herself and Sadness into Riley’s long-term memory, causing Riley’s personality modes to shut down and begin to collapse one by one.
While Joy and Sadness try to return the core memories to Headquarters, with the help of Riley’s abandoned imaginary friend Bing-Bong (Kind), the remaining emotions fail to regulate Riley’s personality, resulting in an increasing slide into despair, depression and apathy. Joy is certain that all will be lost if she can’t make Riley happy again, but it may be that Sadness has more of a role to play than anyone suspects.
What’s wrong with it?
So, you know how I’m doing good movie reviews now? This is definitely one of those. I suspect that the psychological model is a bit of a hodge-podge, but there seems to be a pretty fair bit of research involved.
The film does very occasionally resort to a slightly lazy shorthand, which stands out against the general quality. The ‘all men only think about sports’ flavour of the Dad’s mind is the most glaring example.
What’s right with it?
The film begins with the too-simplistic premise ‘Riley needs to be happy’, and then moves beyond that, subverts it, and creates a whole that tells children that it’s okay to be scared, to be sad, to feel isolated and alone; that you don’t need to smile to be a good daughter and… just so much good stuff.
It also separates sadness and depression, with Riley crashing out of control not because she is sad, but because the loss of Sadness leaves her unable to process any emotion.
How bad is it really?
Directed by Pete ‘Up‘ Docter, Inside Out is a powerful, sophisticated movie, widely held to be a return to form after the mixed reception received by Brave and Monsters University. It’s funny, moving, uplifting and frankly beautiful, and presents a touching and accessible picture of a person’s inner life and the process of growing up.
Best bit (if such there is)?
To escape from the memory dump; the place were neglected memories go to fade away, Joy and Bing-Bong employ the latter’s song-powered rocket cart. It’s a corny scene, with a superb and powerful pay off that I’m not going to spoil.
What’s up with…?
- The Dad’s brain? Dad is shown to be mostly focused on work and family, but his brain is all about sports. It’s a bit of a stereotype and doesn’t entirely fit with the character.
- The casual jokes about murder? Bing-Bong ‘blows away’ a cloud man, whose widow is then dispersed after Joy and Sadness run through her. The mind cops’ reaction? “Forget it Jake; it’s Cloud Town.” DOUBLE HOMICIDE! For kids!
Production values – Dude, it’s Pixar. It’s gorgeous. 2
Dialogue and performances – The writing and characterisation is note perfect, especially for the five emotions, and the performances brilliantly matched. 1
Plot and execution – Its a small plot, but superbly executed. For a film about tiny people controlling regular people’s heads, it’s very true to life. 1
Randomness – Well, there’s a fair amount of weirdness, but since most of that is in Imagination Land or the Abstract Thought Accelerator, so it actually makes a lot of sense. 2
Waste of potential – 0