THESE days, animated films aimed at children rarely hit the chaperone audience as much as their live action counterparts. With films like Minions upping the slapstick and carrying a fantastic, if convoluted plot on the strength of its comedy, it’s up to Pixar to weave the gap closer once again between child and parent.
And Inside Out does it with simplistic style. The plot? Simple: Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) and her family suddenly move to San Francisco, away from the cool, cosy home of Minnesota. Of course, it takes a toll on her emotions. Namely the ever-glowing Joy (Amy Poehler, Parks and Rec), the quiet Sadness (Phyllis Smith, The Office), the appropriately explosive Anger (comedian Lewis Black), the jittery Fear (Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live) and the wonderfully picky Disgust (Mindy Kaling, The Office). New home, new school, and the comfort of friends so far away makes for a hectic time for these five emotions, all driving Riley’s everyday life through this procession of formative events.
What makes the film work wonderfully is the film’s imagination, and its fully-realised characters. Despite being literal one-dimensional concepts of emotions, the five are incredibly well rounded. The cast’s relative inexperience in children’s media works so much to their advantage, giving the film a very grown up approach to Riley’s problems while still representing their emotions. However, this inexperience does also show in places, particularly with Phyllis Smith.
Given the tough role of the melancholic Sadness doesn’t demand a dynamic performance, and sometimes her performance does in fact dip, Smith shines when she’s given the spotlight. Her chemistry with the optimistic Poehler works swimmingly. Meanwhile, the trio of Hader, Kaling and Black is a sight to behold, even in a U-rated film.
Part of the film’s simplicity comes from Pixar’s winning formula of taking something mundane, in this case moving home, and flipping it over its head, in this case seeing from a vastly different point of view. Directors Pete Docter (Toy Story, Up) and Ronaldo del Carmen (Brave, Ratatouille), both veterans of this formula, bring out the magic from this formula. Combined with the combined writing talent of Docter, Poehler and Hader, it makes for a sharp, grown up film about growing up.
With all that said, there are slight kinks in Pixar’s otherwise unbreakable formula; it’s been rather played out for a while now. Perhaps it’s the fatigue, having been with Pixar animation since Toy Story. But while the film does do its job very well, the magic, perhaps to this reviewer, is fading.
Overall, Inside Out is a wonderfully simple, mature story about a young girl whose emotions are running riot. Well worth a spot in your Pixar collection.