Pixar’s most surreal film is also one of its most insightful.
When the trailers started showing up last year, many wondered how Pixar would be able to craft a successful narrative from something as abstract as a young girl’s emotions. Sure, it looked cute, and Pixar has one of the best studio records in Hollywood, but how could they tell a compelling story with what seemed to be such a limited concept? Thankfully, not only have they created a compelling story, but a film that ranks amongst their very best.
From the moment that young Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is born, there are five emotions that reside within her, reacting to her environment, storing memories, and defining the person she is. Joy (Amy Poehler) is the self proclaimed leader, and believing that Riley should -always- be happy, rarely relinquishes the controls to her fellow emotions. Young Riley does seem to lead a blessed life. She has two parents who love her dearly, is a star on her local hockey team, and has supportive friends. But when her father relocates the family to San Fransisco, her world is rocked. Joy struggles to keep in control, but the other emotions are bubbling up. Due to a memory storage mishap, both Joy and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) are ejected from the control room to the outer reaches of Riley’s psyche leaving Fear(Bill Hader), Anger(Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) to do their best.
This still may not sound like much of a plot line, but the way “Inside Out” portrays Riley’s emotional journey in handling the move is pure genius. We can see the events unfold that slowly break down the core memories that define who she is as an individual. Meanwhile, along the journey back to the control room, Joy learns something about the nature of the other emotions, which in turn helps Riley to mature.
“Inside Out” is certainly a surreal movie. Emotions as cute characters, memories stacked up like a Zuma board, and a control panel reminiscent of Star Trek. As odd as it may sound, they end up being a perfect representation of what Riley (and her parents!) are going through. This brilliant film is perfect for all ages, and beside being funny and highly entertaining, may even be helpful to kids experiencing struggles in their own lives.