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"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Saturday, January 9, 2016


There's never been a movie quite like INSIDE OUT. Pixar has a solid reputation of outdoing themselves. They're responsible for some of the finest movies in animation. Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Toy Story 3 are just a few examples from the company's portfolio. There have been some misses (Brave) but every studio has a couple of hiccups along the way. Inside Out joins the greats. There may have been movies before targeting the human mind, but none as engaging, funny, and emotional as this one. Most of Pixar's films find a ground which is for kids and adults alike. As someone 20 years of age, I can say I have never been more engaged by a film from Pixar just with reflecting on how well-done the overall concept is executed.
Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is a happy, hockey-loving 11-year-old Midwestern girl, but her world turns upside-down when she and her parents move to San Francisco. Riley's emotions -- led by Joy (Amy Poehler) -- try to guide her through this difficult, life-changing event. However, the stress of the move brings Sadness (Phyllis Smith) to the forefront. When Joy and Sadness are inadvertently swept into the far reaches of Riley's mind, the only emotions left in Headquarters are Anger, Fear and Disgust.
The story poses a question at the beginning, "Do you ever look at someone and wonder what's going on inside their head?" Putting it bluntly, the film is basically about emotions in a kid. That sounds like a complicated subject on paper. The story however establishes it well, and swiftly. We're treated to truly excellent animation from the start (some of the best from Pixar yet) and from that intro with Riley as a baby the narration carries it onto the title screen. Riley is definitely a good character, representing the archetype kid at this stage. What's interesting to think about is that the story takes place in the real world. Yes, her mind is filled with fantastical things, but it's meant to exemplify her thoughts and emotions.

We have Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness. First, I want to say I'm glad they went with the term "joy" over "happy." To have have inner joy is more substantial than being happy. Since we're on the subject, Joy is definitely one of the greatest characters Pixar has envisioned. While the writing for her is fantastic, a huge amount of credit goes to Amy Poehler for a stellar voice portrayal. These emotions imagined as characters are really interesting to watch. With different life events, it can be hard containing joy. Moving for a young kid for example, going to a new school, and things related can affect how they feel greatly. Watching the emotions go back and fourth in Riley's head was interesting because it's an analogy for how people do things in real life. Riley is generally a happy person, so Joy reigns supreme. So when gloomy events happen, Sadness for example starts affecting the thought process. The story expertly portrays sadness as reluctant, but it can be such a strong emotion we sometimes let it take away joy, as in the case with Riley in the classroom scene. She tries to be joyful, but recalling certain events from her move makes Sadness come out.

Running away is a tough subject for parents, and it was interesting how the story tackled that here. Sometimes a person just doesn't "feel anything." We let our joy get buried beneath because we're so consumed with emptiness and "how wrong things look." We let our emotions anger, fear, and disgust run wild, and do something we normally wouldn't, and shouldn't. But at the last moment as Riley gets on the bus to complete the running away process, her emotions start to re-think. And what's fascinating about these few scenes is that it's not Joy who saves the day: it's Sadness. The story makes a bold move in portraying sadness here. Sadness is generally not an emotion we like, but it can be necessary. Without sadness, we can't allow others to comfort us, case in point with Riley's flashback memory to her hockey game. Without her showing sadness her parents wouldn't have known to comfort her then. How Sadness plays out with the other emotions is a really neat thing the film tells us to think about.

The film besides going through the different emotions is also a story about memories. One of the funniest things is toward the middle act as two characters in Riley's mind go through "cleaning out memories." For example, they contemplate whether leaving in the names of the presidents is a good idea. They decide something along the lines of, "George Washington and Abraham Lincoln should just be left in." This is beyond hilarious because just think for a moment: do you know the numbered presidents besides George Washington and Abraham Lincoln? Almost everyone learns about the presidents but most of us only retain those two core president numbers, and we forget the others because having the complete knowledge isn't important to us. It's the same thing with them erasing a few years of piano practice back when Riley was younger. She no longer has a passion for that, so why would she keep in-depth memories of it? They would disappear as the years go on. (I took piano when I was younger, and because that's something I never pursued afterward memories of it has faded.) And then this idea of a pit where memories go and are forgotten: we don't think about them anymore. The film brings in an imaginary friend, who ends up having one of the most emotional scenes in the film as we see him being forgotten.
Joy reminds me of another character whom is always smiling...

Overall, Inside Out is one of the smartest films I've ever seen. It amazingly portrays the human mind of a kid, as she goes through different emotions of a life-changing event. Not only that, but we're treated to brief scenes of other human minds, such as her parents'. The family interactions are great, and there really aren't any notable negatives to mention. (The mom holding on to the memory of an old boyfriend is unnecessary though.) Riley isn't some fantastical character; she's just a normal kid. And that's why this film is so engaging. It never dips out if its realistic atmosphere. Joy is always fun to watch, and the way the emotions interact with each other was fascinating. There's a lot that can be done in sequels if the company decided to continue. For now, what we have is a fantastic one-shot and well deserves the award for best animated feature of 2015.


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