25 July 2015

FILM: Inside Out

review by Ryan Wigley

Pixar are back! Yes, after a two year wait, the universally-acclaimed Pixar have made a blistering return to the silver screen with their latest instalment, Inside Out. I think it’s safe to say that, whilst still enjoyable and generally positively received, Pixar’s releases of the past few years have been underwhelming by the studios phenomenally high standards. 2011’s Cars 2 was met with a mixed reception, 2012’s Brave was Pixar’s stamp at making their own Disney Princess-esque character and 2013’s Monsters University, despite being positively received, was merely a prequel to their acclaimed 2001 classic - and my personal favourite - Monsters, Inc. So yes, three films that would do any other animation studio proud, but underwhelming by the standards of Pixar - a studio renowned for its originality with fresh and exciting concepts.

Fast forward to 2015 and here we are with Inside Out. Pixar are back at their best here by crafting yet another glorious, bold and stupendously feel-good cinematic masterpiece. It’s a simple concept when you think about it; our bodies being controlled by emotions inside our head that take on the form of tiny people. We’ve all thought about it, haven’t we? With Inside Out Pixar take this concept and build on it by presenting a perfectly conceived world that we spend the 94-minute running time just getting sucked into.

The main character is an 11-year-old girl, Riley, who has been forced to move from Minnesota to San Francisco and it’s the job of the emotion manifestations - Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) - to guide her through life and specifically through this change. The emotions live inside Riley’s head, aptly nicknamed Headquarters, where they monitor and control the actions and memories of Riley through a control console and screen. Any memories she makes are then produced in the form of orbs, which are appropriately coloured to match the relevant emotion. Anger is red, for example. The most important memories - which are the core memories we all have and cherish - are stored in the hub of Headquarters and are then used to power the five islands that all reflect the personality of Riley.

To try and keep spoilers to a minimum, Joy is basically the most dominant of the five emotions, with the obvious job of trying to keep Riley as happy as possible. Anger, Fear and Disgust help where required, but Sadness is an emotion / character that the rest don’t quite understand, mainly because, at the age of 11, Riley has yet to experience it fully. After the move to San Francisco, the previously quiet Sadness starts to touch the various orbs in Headquarters, which then alters them accordingly. This is reflected in Riley’s personality, which creates a core memory of sadness, which in turn causes Headquarters to go wobbly. This is where Joy and Sadness embark on their adventure to try and recover the previously happy core memories and prevent the islands from shutting down as a result of Riley’s personality change.

As I have said, I have the intention of keeping spoilers to a minimum, so I won’t give the rest of the film away. Rest assured, the film showcases Pixar’s talents for storytelling and character work, not to mention the visuals of the film. The entire thing is stunning throughout, from the labyrinth of orbs to a very amusing sequence where Joy and Sadness find themselves taking a shortcut that turns them into abstract pieces of art, which is reflected through a few different art styles!

It’s all very fun and feel-good, but Inside Out does have quite an adult meaning to it and I am not entirely sure what kids will get out of it apart from the odd piece of slapstick and the vibrant, trippy animation. This isn’t a criticism of the film, I’m sure kids will enjoy it greatly, but I suspect very few will rank it amongst their favourite Pixar films. Adults, well teenagers and above, are likely to, however, with its more complicated storytelling that will resonate with the older audience. Personally, I think much of it is down to us associating Riley’s experiences with that of our own growing up, something that younger audiences will have yet to experience.

My only real criticism with the film is that it goes at a slightly slow pace. I think 10 or 15 minutes of it could have been cut with ease, bringing it at about 80 to 85 minutes - which isn’t unusual for Pixar, particularly their earlier films -  and nothing would be lost from the piece. That isn’t to say the film is particularly boring in places, it’s still as fun and funny as ever, but I think pacing is key and that’s where Inside Out slightly slips up for me.

Inside Out is fresh, exciting and innovative with some powerful moments and utterly gorgeous animation. All of these and brilliant performances from the cast allow it to stand proud in the acclaimed Pixar filmography. Roll on The Good Dinosaur in December, I say!

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