Kyle J. Steenblik

Inside Out is Incredible and Emotionally Profound

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5 stars out of 5Inside Out
Directed by: Pete Docter
Screenplay by: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley
Story by: Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling
Running time: 102 minutes
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action

Inside Out is among the best films I have seen, the concept is unique and executed with surgical precision.  The story does not just tug on your heartstrings; it wrenches them with industrial strip-mining equipment.  If this film did not bring tears to your eyes at least once, you are simply not human.  The animation displays a new level of excellence from Pixar, it is both clever and in its style and comfortingly familiar while being the best-looking animated film they have produced.  This will be the film that positively demonstrates Pixar is more than capable of producing fully mature complex films for a much wider audience beyond children. I honestly think that this film was developed with no specific audience in mind, as the subject matter is essentially universal.  I cannot imagine anyone not falling completely in love with this incredible film.

Eleven-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) has a pretty good life thanks to her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith).  At least, it was good, until she was uprooted from Minnesota, her friends, and her hockey team when she moved to San Francisco with her mother (Diane Lane) and father (Kyle MacLachlan).  As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.  Until Sadness, who has yet to find a meaningful role in Riley’s life accidentally turns one of Riley’s core, and favorite happy memories sad.  This also inadvertently shuts down key portions of Riley’s personality, as Joy and Sadness are accidentally ejected from headquarters, with all Riley’s core memories, into the labyrinth of her long-term memory.  This leaves Anger, Disgust, and Fear to help Riley navigate her new home and school, while she is emotionally cut off from her friends, family, hobbies, and all the things that make up her personality, while Joy and Sadness struggle to find a way back to headquarters before there is any permanent damage.

It is difficult to emphasize, without spoiling many of the fantastic surprises, how absolutely beautiful this story is, but what pushes it over the top is how these film makers were able to take such an abstract concept, and intricate story accessible to audiences of every age.  While I may have connected with this film on a slightly different level than my children, the resounding impact, and residual feelings were the same.  From a studio I have long appreciated and loved, I am simply amazed with the impact I observed in the audience after this film ended.

It seems a bit obvious, on the surface, that a film about emotions would be viscerally emotional by default, what was not obvious was how deep these filmmakers delved into the mind and emotions of a young girl struggling through a tumultuous life-changing situation.  I have dismissed more than a few films for cheap jokes and flashy effects because they lack the character to have a meaningful impact on the audience.  I may be a critical jerk sometimes about movies that lack depth but serve empty entertainment.  Inside Out cut through my most cynically critical senses with humor that produced full-bodied laughs from every audience member, of every age, and heart-piercing emotion that brought the audience to tears.  You will leave this film feeling better than you did walking in, and it will stick with you, which makes this a truly great film.

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