Richard Cooley

4

How I Feel About Inside Out (2015)

Doesn’t contain SPOILERS.

Number of Disney Pixar flicks I’ve seen: 11

Number that have caused me to shed tears: 4 (Inside Out, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, and WALL-E)

Movies the studio has made that didn’t grab me in the slightest: Cars, Cars 2, and Monsters University. They consist of sequels and a pre-sequel. To be fair, Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 are CGI sequel features that comprise one of the greatest trilogies in cinematic history (in my opinion anyways).

Pros

Very innovative. Smartly scripted. Deftly executed. Superb voice acting. Profoundly moving. Teaches a lesson every human being should/can embrace. Composer Michael Giacchino’s score (his 5th collaboration with Pixar) accentuates the storyline and scenes happening perfectly: In fact, I sat after Inside Out was finished just to keep hearing it. The strength of Inside Out relies on the chemistry between the Emotions and the narrative lacking a villain. Directed by both Pete Docter (Up, Monsters. Inc) and Ronnie del Carmen, Inside Out is the most existential, absolutely significant, and gloriously fulfilling Pixar Animation Studios creation yet! 

Did You Know?

Unless one counts the proto-Pixar 1987 flick The Brave Little Toaster which starred a female anthropomorphic main character then Inside Out is the first Disney Pixar creation to put the spotlight on a non-princess female protagonist. That’s not to say that Princess Merida, the ultimate anti-princess, created by Brenda Chapman from Brave (2012) isn’t awesome or anything like that! She’s one of favorite characters ever made in the long history of Disney works! The very weak antagonist, single-dimensional portrayal of males throughout it, along with story inconsistencies/plot holes/resemblance to Brother Bear (2003) causes the motion picture as a whole to fall under the high bar Pixar has set for itself over the years.  

Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl from the Toy Story trilogy doesn’t count (she’s a tritagonist, the third most important character behind Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear). Neither does The Incredibles’ Elasticgirl/Helen Parr (deauteragonist) or Ratatouille’s Chef Colette Tatou (another tritagonist, behind Chef Remy and Chef Alfredo Linguini). WALL-E’s EVE (another deauteragonist) and Finding Nemo’s Dory (deauteragonist) don’t fit the bill either. Not even Docter’s adorable Boo from Monsters Inc. nor the cool Ellie Fredrickson from 2009′s Up function as protagonists. Inside Out refreshingly has Riley Anderson, the hockey-loving non-pink wearing main character: this is her story from beginning to end as she’s supported by her parents and emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger, in order of their appearance). 

Cons

A couple of gender cliches along with the visual depiction of Joy being skinny and happy whilst Sadness is depressed and dumpy looking still really rubbed me the wrong way since first seeing it in the teaser. While I grasp that each Emotion’s shape is influenced by an something real (such as a star for Joy, a teardrop for Sadness, a nerve for Fear, and etc.). Still, these design explanations/choices could be excuses for any comments concerning the female bodies. I hope this isn’t the intentional case. Although, an argument could be made that the representation of Riley’s Joy (thin and boisterous) compared to Sadness (lethargic and highly intelligent) symbolizes the kind of daughters most parents desire to have. To clarify, from a stupid accepted societal standpoint when it comes to girls, the majority of parents might/may prefer a “happy and pretty” daughter than an “intelligent and introverted” one. It begs the question, if these Emotions are in Riley’s mind, a character that doesn’t seem to put much emphasis on how she looks, why do Joy and Sadness ultimately appear the way they do…? Other character share these exact Emotions, yet they remained unchanged appearance-wise? WHY? 

Additionally, I had a key major problem with the seven minute musical Lava short film (written and directed by James Ford Murphy) which played before Inside Out due to the male volcano being dumpy and short looking and the female one overall being more svelte and significantly taller. Similar to Joy and Sadness, I just feel troublesome archetypes are at play are here. Regrettably. Lava’s message of having to have someone to love bothered me. Can’t society or children ever be told that being single is fine for once? At least the song was catchy…

Verdict

So, those minor complaints aside, I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVED INSIDE OUT! *Shouts at the top of his lungs with tears streaming down his face* My new Disney Pixar favorite! By miles! 

P.S. Did anyone notice how Riley’s Emotions consist of both males and females while those of her parents are solely female (mother) and male (father)? 

Inside Out (2015)

When it comes to looking at animation as a part of the story of film, I am deeply grateful I was born early enough to have caught the final years of Disney Renaissance, to have caught the beginnings of internationalization of anime, and to have lived through the beginnings of Pixar. Like Pixar did for Toy Story (1995), like they did in WALL-E (2008), Pete Docter’s Inside Out – his third directed feature following Monsters, Inc. (2001) and Up (2009) – has just set new standards in narrative ingenuity and empathy. It is Pixar’s finest film since audiences beheld a trash compacting robot and a sleek, collector probe dance in the darkness of space, with only the stars as eyewitnesses.

The film, which takes place inside the mind of an 11-year old girl named Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias), is one of the most profound American animated films of the last few decades. Its portrayal of five basic human emotions as characters – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Louis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) – is always going to be manipulative in some ways. Now it should be noted that all films worth watching are emotionally manipulative; some are just more respectful to the intelligence of the audience than others. Inside Out is as honest as any American animated film has ever been, arguing that it is healthy to express one’s emotions. But most importantly, the film argues that the two most diametrically opposed emotions – joy and sadness – need each other and make us stronger, more beautiful human beings.

Riley was born in Minnesota and has a loving relationship with her two parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan).Simultaneously accompanying her birth, Joy is created in Riley’s newly-formed mind. The other four emotions will follow, helping Joy to run Headquarters – the center of Riley’s mind and where her memories are collected into color-coded orbs relating to whichever emotion was felt at that moment (Joy is yellow, Sadness is blue, Anger is red, Fear is purple, and Disgust is green). In the center of Headquarters, five yellow-colored “Core Memories” – the moments that most define Riley’s personality – power what lies outside Headquarters, making Riley Riley. When her father finds a job at a start-up in San Francisco – unreasonable real estate prices and all – turmoil strikes on Riley’s first day at her new school, which sees her cry in class as she recalls her life back in Minnesota. At that moment, Sadness has touched a core memory, tinging that specific memory blue. Joy attempts to bring back the joy of that moment and the ensuing turmoil leads to an accident where Joy and Sadness are thrown from Headquarters, leaving Anger, Disgust, and Fear to run the show. Joy and Sadness must find their way back to Headquarters as numbness and depression creep into Riley’s life. Along the way they will be assisted by Riley’s almost-forgotten imaginary friend named Bing Bong (Richard Kind, an appropriate surname if there ever was one). More on Bing Bong and other non-spoilery plot points in just a moment.

The most moving Pixar films have been centered on personal or collective loss. In the Toy Story trilogy, Woody, Buzz, and their friends can never shake off the anxiety that someday they might be insignificant to Andy. The humans in WALL-E have lost what it means to be a human where WALL-E knows more of kindness through his interactions with a cockroach and watching a VHS of Hello, Dolly! (1969) every night. Carl has lost Ellie and Russell – hiding the unhealed wounds of his parents’ divorce within his heart – misses his father in Up. Those undercurrents of collective or, in this case, personal loss are central to Inside Out. The move to San Francisco for Riley and her family feels so abrupt and arbitrary; her parents are trying, in their own way, to have Riley return to some sense of normalcy in their new home in the City by the Bay. It could be debated whether or not Riley’s parents are pushing Riley a bit too quickly to adjust. They know, over decades of delights and despairs, that this process of living in a different world will be difficult. Riley has never lived apart from her friends and family; eleven years of those close friendships, being a goofball around her family, and the uninterrupted presence of parents who love her unconditionally is about to be disrupted in one fell swoop.

How Docter and his screenwriting team have written this confusion, this numbness after moving and having an embarrassing first day in front of strangers her age in relation to the five emotions, is an example of screenwriting efficiency and an incredible understanding and respect for the characters involved. It alternates between fits of hard laughter that will have children and adults laughing at the same joke for different reasons and realizations that – yes, we have had these moments where we wish that outburst never happened, that our face would be forgotten by others – Riley’s daily episodes are terribly relatable (whether we see ourselves in her or others). The screenplay tackles Riley’s numbness when the fixtures of her life – her family, her friendships, her passion for ice hockey, to name a few – appear to be collapsing. 

The numbness sees Disgust have Riley sass her parents, Fear avoids simple questions such as “How was your day today?”, and Anger – without Joy or Sadness providing extra input to stop his hot-headed rampage – unleashes uncharacteristic eruptions that are poorly-veiled attempts at hiding discomfort and the incoming tears. Joy and Sadness are wandering around her mind somewhere and, before the film ventures into a depression that the youngest children might not understand, they are trying their mightiest to return to Headquarters. Those who display such a numbness, those who are depressed, are trying their hardest. Joy and Sadness – remember, they are part of Riley so this is on her own mental agency despite all five emotions being presented as separate characters – never question their need to return to Headquarters. It’s just a matter of how quickly they get there.

Joy and Sadness’ journey through the corridors of Riley’s long term memory (this is the area surrounding Headquarters, but is separated from Headquarters by a dark pit of forgotten memories) has creations that would be best experienced – from Imagination Land, the abstract thought area, a sort of classical Hollywood studio that is essentially Riley’s dream factory (unfortunately, the name DreamWorks has been taken), and a bunch of boy band-like, long-haired Canadians who would die for Riley – rather than described. It is Pixarian comedic creativity at its finest. Also frolicking about in Riley’s long term memory is Bing Bong, who was not included in any of the promotional materials for the general public. There is a good reason for this and if you don’t want a single hint or spoiler of this, I would advise you to skip the next paragraph entirely and return to this write-up to read the following paragraph later.  Because with just one character – and this is not even prying into Riley herself or the five emotions – certain ideas and questions that are rarely expressed in film, be it animated or not.

With a body made out of cotton candy, a tattered tramp-like brown suit, and a pink elephantine figure, Bing Bong – Riley’s imaginary friend from her early childhood – has been roaming the corridors of the long term memory for years. He is waiting to be called forth by Riley. But the call will never come. Bing Bong has no one to talk to about it. Here, those viewing the film who have not succumbed to an unhealthy cynicism realize that their emotional vanquishing is near. Bing Bong has provided Riley with generosity and kindness and wants only to give more despite realizing he has outlived his time, but not his welcome. Near the conclusion, Bing Bong asks Joy to take the one person he has loved into being somewhere special. He does not realize he has already accomplished just that.

Inside Out is a high-concept film that will tickle audiences in different ways, depending on age and life experience. It is a film originating from the depths of Docter’s social anxiety during his childhood and the emotional swings he noticed in his daughter as she was approaching her teenage years. Docter began imagining a film where certain human emotions became steadfast characters within a person’s mind. He consulted psychologists to identify the most important emotions and the five most mentioned emotions – the film originally was slated to have six, but Docter believed fear and surprise to be too similar to generate narrative conflict – appear in this film. Certain psychological terms are used throughout and it could be argued that Inside Out – despite the clever puns it bandies about – is reductionist in its approach to human psychology. Perhaps, but the sensitivity of the story makes up for that. Each emotion plays a part; the exclusion or suppression of one for the others is to a person’s detriment (Joy’s initial behavior towards Sadness is bullying, there is no other word for it).

This film contains composer Michael Giacchino’s fourth – fourth – original film score this year, following Jupiter Ascending, Tomorrowland, and Jurassic World. Of these four films. Giacchino is said to have completed Inside Out first despite its later release – his reasoning is because scenes in animated film are set in stone long before the film’s completion – and is the most distinct of the four scores. Combining synthetic elements with a tinkly piano, it’s almost as if Giacchino took inspiration from the likes of the build mode from The Sims and SimCity as inspiration. There are jazzy undercurrents that pop up during the most light-hearted passages in the film and Giacchino pulls out all the stops during the manic end credits. But throughout the film, it’s the piano that is the star of yet another fantastic score from Giacchino – one wonders if this banner year can continue or is a stepping stone for something extraordinary for him. “Joy Turns to Sadness / A Growing Personality” (a fascinating cue title that I would like to discuss but can’t within this write-up) sees the piano combine the piano motifs found in “Bundle of Joy” and “Tears of Joy”. The latter makes more of an emotional impact in the context of the film and the motif that defines that cue (beginning at 1:19) sounds suspiciously like the first few notes from “It Only Takes a Moment” from Hello, Dolly!. Is that a coincidence? For the Pixar fan in me, I want to say no – surely, surely, Giacchino, is doing one of the most musically shameless things he has ever done.

When Joy and Sadness inevitably return to Headquarters and Riley rediscovers her tears and laughter, Joy turns to Sadness, reconciling with the one emotion that she never realized gave her any meaning. Inside Out is a film that wears its heart, tears, and, yes, mucus on its sleeve. It is a film content with itself, expressing all five emotions and understanding each one’s value to a person and containing not a single villainous character. The conflict is internal; there is no demon or strange cerebral monster to fight. Instead, the conflict occurs when the five emotions are fighting each other for dominance at the very moments when they need to realize they are a team and each other’s greatest friends.

There is a moment where Bing Bong and Sadness sit together and talk about his happiest memories with Riley. The brightness in his eyes vanishes and Sadness is there for him – she understands and is there to help. For those older than Riley, I can imagine many may just find themselves moved to tears out of catharsis, not distress. That minute or so might be the embodiment of all that Pete Docter wanted to say. Inside Out is the most surprising film of any sort that I have encountered in some time and is one of Pixar’s greatest films. It quivers with longing, a persevering hope that things may soon be better when our greatest passions are nowhere to be found. Above all, it understands that we are at our most courageous when we try to find peace within ourselves.

My rating: 9.5/10

^ Based on my personal imdb rating. Half-points are always rounded down.

Inside Out (2015) Review — Written 6/19/15

           I’m so happy to say that Inside Out is not a Cars 2. It isn’t even a Cars. Or a even a Brave. In fact, I’d say that Inside Out is the best Pixar movie since Up. It isn’t as quite as good as Up, but it’s still really funny, magical, and absolutely adorable. All of the voice actors do great jobs, selling their characters instead of “just being Leslie Knope” or “just being Phyllis from The Office.” The movie—although not entirely creative in its concept—is extremely creative in execution. It’s also one of the best movies that I’ve seen of 2015 so far.

           First things first: I didn’t see this in 3D. I have read from multiple websites that the 3D is absolutely useless. From what I did see, though, this movie looks incredible. The attention to detail is so warm and delightful, and the entire visual style is pure Pixar. It’s colorful, fun, and engaging, but never overbearing in its cuteness. The entire design of the personified human mind is extremely creative; the filmmakers’ ability to turn psychological concepts into a fun mythology is very impressive. The design of all of the characters is fitting and believable, but equally likable, and the environments are even better. Being a family movie, it obviously doesn’t get too dark, but the sheer inventiveness of it all is truly awesome with a great use of colors (especially blue). Pixar made their own world, and they did it terrifically. 

           The movie is also very funny, mostly thanks to the voice cast. I was especially impressed that actors that I feared to be typecast were in fact not; everyone sold their characters. Amy Poehler really does seem like Joy, not just Leslie Knope. Phyllis Smith is Sadness, not Phyllis Lapin-Vance. Mindy Kaling is Disgust, not just Kelly Kapoor. Lewis Black is hilarious as Anger and manages to never make his near-wall-to-wall shouting annoying. Bill Hader is also very funny, but he doesn’t really have a ton to do. He felt underutilized. The writing definitely provides many smart laughs, though. I laughed throughout, and it gives nuances to its characters—e.g.: Joy isn’t always 100% happy, and when she isn’t, it’s related to her titular emotion—and it does a really good job explaining the worth of each emotion.

           As for flaws, the film’s magic does seem to fade away a bit in the second half. There are moment where the film drags a little, but it still is never boring, per se. The film actually does a very good job at showing two different worlds—mental and physical—but there are still some times where it feels slightly disjointed. I also never actually cried, which I was expecting. I teared up a bit, but I was never as moved as I hoped I would be.

           Still, Inside Out is extremely creative in its execution and makes for a terrific kids movie (that’s really made for adults). It’s funny, beautiful, and while it may not quite reach the heights of Up, it still makes for a success in its own right. It may just also withstand a good amount of analysis.

           8.5/10, great, one thumb up, definitely above average, etc.