Inside Out gets it.
What does it get, you ask?
Well, it gets everything, actually. Let me explain.
I originally went into this thinking that I was going to write a review about how important it is that female characters are presented to our child audience as complete, multi-faceted, fully capable of growing and changing. Well, of course Inside Out provided me with that. But! Pixar rarely produces films where the main characters DON’T come equipped with such traits (I’m looking at you Cars).
What I left the movie with instead was an overwhelming sense of comfort that somewhere out there someone understood just how each one of us and all of our intricate emotional cogs work. Here’s where the spoilers come in, so I’ll just skip to the best part: Inside Out was a fantastic film worth every penny. Take the family, whoever is your family, and see this movie this summer.
We start with Joy. She’s the first emotion for Riley to have, which gave her the keys to the console, and the console is incredibly important to each and every person because it drives our whole air which we present ourselves. So from the beginning of Riley, she’s driven by Joy. Very soon after, Sadness appears, and obviously Sadness is important too, just no one can tell why. As Riley grows, they’re joined by Fear, Disgust, and Anger, helping to round out her individual emotional spectrum.
Riley is now 11 and she’s happy. All of her core memories are fueled by happiness, her Personality Islands of Family, Friendship, Honesty, Hockey, and Goofball stand strong. A proper story doesn’t move along without conflict, which is why everything and everyone is shaken by the big move from Minnesota to San Francisco. The Emotions do their best to keep Joy at the helm, but the panic gets the best of Sadness and her well-intentioned attempts at helping end up skewing the core memories.
With the memories altered, Joy takes it upon herself to fix Riley. She’s so focused to do so that she completely forgets the other emotions are just as invested in Riley as she is. Sadness especially feels the need to help and with a very well done scuffle, her and Joy find themselves whisked away from headquarters to the long-term memory bank, core memories in hand. That leaves Anger, Disgust, and Fear to run the console, making a very sensitive and irritable Riley. She loses interest in hockey, she skips school, and eventually, those three emotions convince her run away, back to Minnesota.
All this time Riley is going through the most troubling period of her life (remember she’s only 11), Joy and Sadness are on their own odyssey back to headquarters. The emotional turmoil is causing literal damage to Riley’s psyche, making navigation of the brain an even more daunting task. Bing Bong, an imaginary friend that’s mostly cotton candy, teams up with them so that he can be remembered and the two can continue on their adventures together.
They make it through Abstract Thought where they almost get broken down into the most basic of concepts that almost destroyed them. They traverse Imagination Land and meet Riley’s new boyfriend, who’s from Canada. Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong end up coming across Dream Productions, the Subconscious (it’s a prison for all the troublemakers), and the Memory Dump (the place where we forget). Those emotions would have done anything to protect their Riley, and that was sure put to the test.
Inside Out is one of Pixar’s best, which is more than evident while watching the film. Every casting choice was spot on. Every scene was beautifully animated. Every moment was entertaining. But the moral focus found at the center of the film may just be the most important concept Pixar has conveyed yet: Sadness is special. That’s a huge realization that we often don’t want to admit to ourselves, especially when we’re children. Yet the truth remains that Sadness is necessary. Sadness makes us feel something at times when we would much rather feel nothing. We are able to pull ourselves out of the darkest hours of our lives because of Sadness. The other emotions inside us will do everything they can to fight it; they don’t want us sad either. The fact that Pixar managed to grasp one of the most intense and complicated lies we as humans tell ourselves as well as unravel it before our eyes in only 102 minutes shows just how high the standard is for not only children’s films, but films altogether.
I’ve seen a lot of movies this summer, this year. I’m going to see a ton more. It’s what I do. This movie is by far the most important one out there now. It’s these emotional affectations that keep Pixar at the top. They refuse to ever dumb down a movie for children, knowing well enough that everyone, young and old, can relate to the tales they tell. If their beautiful interpretation of the human mind doesn’t leave you cinematically fulfilled by the ending, I’m not entirely convinced that anything ever could.