Friday, June 19, 2015

'Inside Out' review

Pixar has been in a real slump lately. After the studio dished out two masterpieces in the form of Up and Toy Story 3, Pixar went on to produce Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University. Not terrible films by any stretch, but they all paled in comparison to instant classics like Toy Story, The Incredibles and Monsters Inc. After taking 2014 off to rework The Good Dinosaur, Pixar is kicking 2015 off with one of their most impressive features in years. Inside Out, a heartfelt, emotional film bursting with imagination, is Pixar in its purest form and one of the very best movies of 2015. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. But most importantly, it has remarkably smart insight into the way that the human mind works, the loss of innocence and the feelings that carry us through our darkest moments.

Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is a bright and happy 11-year old girl who lives with her Mom (Diane Lane) and Dad (Kyle MacLachlan) in Minnosota. She has a great family life, fantastic friends and she enjoys playing hockey on her club team. All of this is thanks to a perfect internal balance, led by the five emotions inside her head- Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black). Joy is the one who is mostly in control of Riley's world, and she prides herself on the fact that most of Riley's memories are happy. Everything seems perfect until Riley's family moves from the safety of Minnesota to San Francisco.

Riley tries to keep it together, but the emotions panic and Joy and Sadness end up being accidentally ejected out of headquarters and into the long and expansive world of long-term memory, dream productions and more. With the help of Riley's imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind), Joy and Sadness must keep Riley's mind from completely collapsing, and learn to cope with the changes that are happening all around them.

From the moment that Inside Out started, I knew that I was in for a truly special treat. Pixar is known for dreaming up new, unique and fascinating worlds to tell their stories in, and Inside Out is no different. I can't even begin to discuss how breathtakingly original this film is, or how masterfully the ideas are handled, or the pure, uncompromising emotional impact that it has. But I will try. Inside Out is a return to form for Pixar in a big way, a fun movie that is daring, thought provoking and honest. With all of the buzz and the hype, I figured that Inside Out would be a return to form for Pixar. But I never quite expected the bittersweet mastery that Pete Docter's film provides, an emotional wallop and a blast of imaginative filmmaking that is Pixar's newest instant classic.

The best animated films are not only fun and visually stunning, but thematically compelling as well. That's where Pixar succeeds the most. The Toy Story trilogy is about accepting change and dealing with loss, Up is about letting go of the past and moving forward with our own adventures and Finding Nemo is about the endless love that parents have for their children and their desire to keep them safe, even if that's not always possible. Pete Docter has said that he came up with the idea for Inside Out while watching his own daughter grow up before his eyes and seeing the way that she changed and matured. In that respect, Inside Out is one of the most personal films that Pixar has ever done. It touches on some of the themes that I mentioned from other Pixar films, but it hits on something that is entirely fresh and new- the loss of innocence and growing up.

In that respect, Inside Out has more in common with Boyhood than it does with anything else we've seen from the Pixar catalog. Sure, Toy Story 3 hit on it a little bit with the final scene, but Andy wasn't really losing his inner child. He was moving on from one stage of his life to the next. That transition just happened to create one of the most profoundly sad scenes in movie history (I'm crying as I type this right now). But Inside Out is something different. As Joy proudly describes in the film, Riley has pretty much been happy her whole life. Joy has done everything she can to make her life beautiful. But Joy can't protect her forever. The move from Minnesota to San Francisco kicks off the film and it leaves Riley with a mess of emotions. I won't discuss much more of the plot of the film for fear of spoiling a magical cinematic experience, but I will say that Riley's maturing process and loss of innocence is definitely handled in this film. The world is no longer such a happy place and memories aren't so clear cut anymore. 

There's a time in everybody's life where the world becomes a darker place, a more unforgiving landscape where it doesn't always go your way. Riley hasn't hit puberty yet, but she's nearing that time in her development and her life is really starting to change. And it's all personified perfectly by Bing Bong. Voiced by the pitch perfect Richard Kind, Bing Bong is Riley's lovely, happy imaginary friend who has been with Riley since she was very young (and according to famed Pixar fanboy Jon Negroni, is one of the critical ways that Inside Out fits into the Pixar theory). Bing Bong used to go on all sorts of adventures with Riley. But of course, imaginary friends don't stay forever. 

I'm a deeply cynical person in some aspects, but at the same time, I've clung to my inner child and I don't want to ever let it go. I still have a collection of toys from when I was a young kid (mostly stuffed bears), and heck, I still even play with them sometimes. Maybe I don't want to lose that spirit. Maybe that's why Toy Story 3 hits me the way it does. I can't ever see myself losing that part of my childhood. I want to keep my imagination, I want to keep the fun that my brother and I had together. I don't want to lose that. And maybe that's why Inside Out was the second film that I ever cried at. 

I've been teared up at films before. Schindler's List hits me in an emotional spot. So does Saving Private Ryan. I got a little choked up at the end of Furious 7. And Me and Earl and the Dying Girl left a huge emotional scar on me. But nothing hits me like some of Pixar's best. Nothing. For me, Inside Out ranks among the best because of that emotional impact. I cried twice during Inside Out. Once because of how well the story had been executed and the catharsis that the filmmakers had earned and once because it hit me on such a personal level. I won't discuss what made me cry because it heads into such spoiler-filled territory, but know that it's near the Toy Story 3 level of brilliance. 

I'm afraid of growing up, and I know that I'm almost there. I'm 16 now, and in a couple years, that scene in Toy Story 3 is going to have a whole lot more meaning to me. Inside Out connected because it felt like something that I'd already been through, emotions that I'd already felt. Life is starting to become more fun and less fun the same time. New doors are opening, but old ones are closing. Deep down inside, the magic of Pixar is that these filmmakers understand and acknowledge the how hard letting go is, but they also understand that the future is just as bright as the past, if not brighter. 

The end of Toy Story 3 is sad, but in the end, there's hope. Hope for a great future for Andy and hope for the toys and their new home with Bonnie. The opening scene in Up is one of the great moments of cinematic poetry, a long and occasionally tragic life told in a few short minutes. But ultimately, what's the message of the film? Have your own adventure. Pave your own path. Don't be stuck in the past. Inside Out will make you sad. It will make you long for your childhood happiness, the time you shared with your imaginary friends, and the time that you jumped from couch to couch pretending that the floor was lava. And it will reveal emotions that you hadn't felt in a long time because of the loss that we all share as humans. But it has an ending that is overflowing with optimism. And that's amazing. 

So yeah, Inside Out felt personal to me. But as a movie, how good is it? It's beyond good. It's mind-blowing (pun not really intended). Pixar is back in fine form, with brilliantly realized ideas, complex themes and a voice cast that does top notch work. This is one of the most clever films in recent memory, once again proving that the mind is a blank canvas for filmmakers to really do some fantastic work (Inception is another great example of this). I won't spoil some of the film's most smart and witty elements, but I will say that Docter's world-building is phenomenal. 

The voice cast and technical prowess is equally astounding, bringing Docter's ideas vividly to life. Poehler, Smith, Kaling, Hader and Black all bring unique and funny qualities to their emotions and they balance out the weighty aspects of the film with some truly hilarious moments. Seriously, this is one of the flat-out funniest movies of 2015. The rest of the voice cast beyond the core emotions is stunning as well, with Richard Kind doing some truly magnificent work as Bing Bong, the one character that you will probably fall in love with the most in the film.

Beyond that, Inside Out is just a dazzling work of creative thinking that will amaze you with its cleverness. The film is smart and sophisticated, and it works overtime to get you to understand some of the abstract concepts. The only knock I can see anybody having against this film is that it's possibly too clever for its own good, but I certainly didn't think that way. I was consistently amazed by what Docter and the team at Pixar had dreamed up.

A stroke of genius filled with endless creativity, Inside Out will mildly amuse kids, but penetrate straight to the heart of anybody old enough to understand the film's emotional core. Inside Out has a deep understanding of some of the most difficult parts of life, but is ultimately an uplifting film and one that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. It's an easy call- Inside Out is one of Pixar's best films and unquestionably the best film of 2015 so far. This is a film that works on so many levels of brilliance, but also feels very personal to me. It's a tricky balance but Inside Out works beautifully.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+                                            (10/10)

Image Credits: YouTube, Forbes, Hypable, Variety, YouTube, Hollywood Reporter, MovieWeb


  1. Inside Out is a wonderful science fiction film.

  2. For the creators of UP comes a great movie with lots of laughs.
    When Pixar said that this is one of their best movies they were right. This movie is an adventure full of jokes and humor around not all corners but most. The casting, voice acting, characters, the plot was well done. Almost everything in the film was "Pitch Perfect"............ and yes I did just say that. On the other hand the movie was fantastic and even though their are no sequels planned this is a movie that is really worth watching.

    Watch Inside Out Movie Online Free