Movie Review: Inside Out

From the company that has made you smile, cry, cheer, and even think deeper than you've ever thought before, comes yet another highly-successful romp from Disney and Pixar. The company that has brought to your eyes everything from living toys and talking fish to superhero families and post-apocalyptic robots, Pixar has been putting our minds to work for the past 20 years, always succeeding in surpassing our expectations for what's to come. Following a fantastic run that got its genesis from the 1995 hit Toy Story, Disney and Pixar have since delivered a mix of dynamic original films, as well as some lackluster sequels. Acting as the thrilling return to form for Pixar Animation, the mind-bending Inside Out allows us to forget those lacking sequels, and relish in the glory of something fresh and original on the big screen. 

Following a lovely, foot-tapping animated short about volcanoes falling in love (or "lava", in their case), which got the audience of both kids and adults even more excited for the cute flick they're about to watch, Inside Out takes us right into the story as we see a new-born Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) experience her first graces of both joy and sadness. What we don't know, until we travel inside of the fresh mind of baby Riley, is that these emotions are really controlled by a working system of anthropomorphic emotions. Characterized by leader Joy (Amy Poehler), and her team of counterparts, Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), the emotions within Riley's head control nearly every aspect of her emotional state. These emotions, who have been with Riley all her life, are soon put to the ultimate test when 11-year old Riley and her family move to the strange new world of San Francisco. Forcing Riley to combat everything from a new school to the longing for her old home and life, her emotions must do whatever it takes to keep Riley in tact through this troubling time. Traveling through the whirlwind of a child's mind, Inside Out takes us deeper and deeper as we enjoy the adventures of the simple yet elaborate emotions that make us who we are.

Ah, doesn't it feel great to see something on screen that isn't either a reboot or a sequel? That's the feeling I get whenever I see a fresh, new film grace our presence on the silver screen. In the world of original films, while most live-action films like Star Wars, Inception, and Avatar (the list goes on) may have blown our minds beyond belief, it's been Pixar's animated flicks that have truly captured the essence of making a film we never thought we'd see. With a history of great films, from the tale of talking toys in Toy Story (and its two fun-filled sequels) to films like Up and Finding Nemo, as well as the undeniable ability to pull at our heart strings, Pixar has, for the past 20 years, brought audiences films that we can cherish and love for years to come. Now while films like E.T. and The Sixth Sense (among others) have had their massive influence on us, the films of Pixar (as well as Disney's numerous animated films) are the ones that really stick with you for your whole life. 

Apart from being the most original animated film we've seen so far this year, Inside Out is also a clever, fast-paced thrill-ride through the mind, a film that is both inventive and thoroughly entertaining. While it may be a bit slow at the beginning, taking us through the evolution of our protagonist Riley's mind as she grows up, the story really picks up when the young girl's life is turned upside-down. Following her family's venture from Minnesota to the overwhelming streets of San Francisco, Riley and her collection of emotions soon become increasingly more fun to watch, as they tangle with the stress of a new life, as well as some high-risk trouble within Riley's head. An imaginative tale of something we as humans often think about, wondering what a person is truly thinking, Inside Out utilizes witty dialogue and stunning animation to create a world that we can only dream of. 

As well as fantastic animation, a skill that keeps getting more advanced as the film industry expands, the cast of this film is what truly shines. While it may be an animated film, and we typically don't really care too much about who's behind the microphone of the colorful characters, the cast is so unique and known to us (well at least for teens and adults) that we can't help but appreciate it. While the humans may not be that important (Riley played by newcomer Kaitlyn Dias, and her parents played by actors Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan), it's the team of emotions that really lead the show. Led by comedy queen Amy Poehler, who's made a name for herself starring in shows like Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live, each of these emotions really become their own character, as they all stand on their own and play unique roles in deciding what their person goes through in terms of their emotional state. Poehler, who plays the wildly over-the-top Joy is the one emotion that really steals the show in Inside Out, her blossoming nature and overall strive to make sure Riley is happy all the time being the true key to what holds the tale together. Being the comedy queen that she is, happy-go-lucky in her role as Leslie Knope on Parks and Rec, Poehler was a great fit for the character.  

In the roles of Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness, we have an even bigger range of comedy. With stand-up comedian Lewis Black playing the hot-headed Anger (a favorite of mine from the film for his no-holds-barred rage), the comedy writer and actress Mindy Kaling as Disgust, SNL alum Bill Hader as the quirky Fear, and Phyllis Smith as Sadness (which was basically a blue and depressed version of herself), you could say there was no lack of laughs coming from this cast. A wonderful ensemble cast of comedians, this team performed fantastically as they relayed endless inside jokes and puns for the audience to eat up. Most of the cast known for mostly adult comedy, I was happy that the actors didn't feel forced when making jokes made specifically for kids. Ironically, most of the jokes in the film were actually in tune with adults, and could actually appeal to a more mature audience. That being said, I think the cast was perfect, as they all knew how to make the characters their own, as well as play off mature comedy in a movie mainly meant for kids. Going back to the cast, Phyllis Smith's Sadness (whom you assumed to be mostly useless at the beginning of the film) actually ends up being the most important character in the film, one that teaches us all a great lesson in the end.

Speaking of lessons learned, we all know that every Pixar/Disney film holds some unique message that we all should take away from the bright and colorful characters on screen. Inside Out, a film full of emotion, continues that tradition with a nice little preaching about the importance of family, as well as the importance of sadness in a person's life. Harboring profound lessons in each of their films, everything from never letting go of your past to the overwhelming control of technology in our society, Pixar pushes the messages even further as they show us just how essential our inner emotions are to us. By the end of the film, whether you're surrounded by used tissues or not, the burdening message of how sadness affects us and how it can be overcome really ties everything together in this heart-warming story. With our protagonist, Riley, at a near breaking point in her emotional roller coaster by the end of the film, her inner emotions risk their lives in order to find out just what can turn Riley around in her actions. With that, we learn that sometimes the only way to accept something is to be sad about, which causes you to be surrounded by the ones you love most as a result.

With a collection of dynamic characters, a plethora of heart-jerking scenes, and a wondrous amount of top-tier animation, Pixar's anticipated return-to-form makes for surely one of the best animated films of the year. More imaginative than Frozen, and equally as enthralling as Big Hero 6 and The Lego Movie, Inside Out may not be the best Pixar or Disney film (as Finding Nemo, Lion King, and The Incredibles hold great prevalence, in my childhood at least), it's one of the more memorable animated hits to light up the screen in the past few years. It's definitely not one that'll fall from my "train of thought" any time soon. 

I gave Inside Out an 9 out of 10 because it's really a film for all ages, young or old, and it has enough elements in its final product to make it even Oscar-worthy. With a lovely cast of comedians, a great range of inside jokes, and just enough emotion to keep it from getting sappy, Inside Out is definitely worthy seeing for any Disney/Pixar fan, as well as anyone in desperate need of an original idea in Hollywood films. Whether it gets a sequel or not, as most do these days, the highly clever beast of Inside Out could definitely take us to places we never thought possible.              

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