Sep 7, 2015

[Movies] Inside Out (2015)

I was both excited and worried when it was announced that Pixar's next big movie project was Inside Out, a movie focused on the various emotions that we go through in life. Sure there's a lot of inherent potential for comedy because of the fact that Pixar is Pixar and exaggerated emotions can be hilarious. But emotions are also highly complex and there was definitely the risk of oversimplifying things here.

But Pixar is Pixar is Pixar and if any company could handle a movie of this nature, then of course it had to be them. And while the movie still generated a lot of laughs and had a lot of great visual humor, as expected, it also had a pretty serious message for everyone, regardless of age.

Yes, we know Pixar movies to be highly emotional. Yes, they always tell stories. And yes, they also may have a sort of anecdotal moral inherent in the story to boot. But I think this movie stands out versus other Pixar movies given the strength of the message and how central it felt with respect to the theme of things.

Synopsis: Inside Out is a 2015 animated comedy-drama movie directed by Pete Docter, who also directed Pixar's Up. The screenplay was written by Docter together with Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley.

The movie is focused on Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) - or more specifically the 5 primary emotions that influence her behavior. The emotions are named about which sphere they seem to influence, and thus we have Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Her emotions have been at work since the day Riley was born and for the most part her days have largely been full of Joy. But the movie begins in earnest as Riley turns 11. What's the worst that could happen, right?

It starts to feel like Riley's world has completely changed as the whole family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco after her father (Kyle MacLachlan) gets a new job in the city. A new city means leaving pretty much her entire life behind, and thus this is naturally a turbulent time. Coincidentally, an accident in the "control room" where all the emotions do their job results in Joy and Sadness ending up in long-term memory. So now the two need to work together to get back to Riley's control room before her inability to feel Joy and Sadness leads her to make some highly questionable decisions.

At first, I was rather worried that most if not all of the movie would take place within Riley's mind. And while long term memory and the other locations were all pretty interesting, that would have resulted with a story with not quite as much impact, I think. It would be the equivalent of just staying in the candy world of Wreck-It Ralph or something.

But instead we had a story that jumped in and out of Riley's mind and even into the minds of her parents to some extent - stressing how we all have the same emotions, even if they have slightly different forms. Plus there's the nuance of how everyone seems to have a different emotion in the central "lead" role versus the others, which ultimately reflects their resulting personality. That kind of interconnected thing is just one part of what makes this movie so enjoyable.

The real world connection to things and the complexity of seeing the literal "emotional struggle" within Riley's mind versus what she ends up doing in the real world are really what brings things home. Getting this "close-up look" at her emotions and the rather scary decisions that she eventually makes in this movie end up demonstrating just what can happen when a person does not have a true outlet for their sadness or a reason to be happy. In other words, it so artfully demonstrates part of the struggle with depression that many end up feeling and thus the need to do more to help such people. After all, not everyone has anthropomorphic representations of their emotions moving around their brains out on an adventure of sort to save the day.

If you cried while watching Toy Story 3 or that opening sequence in Up, I can guarantee that you're going to cry here at least once, more likely twice given how the scenes play out. I'm man enough to admit that I sure did and it surprised me how such a simple action on-screen had me crying pretty hard at the end of things.

If anything, all this praise of the story's complexity and the value of its message to people of all ages about the need to manage one's emotions well makes it not quite as valuable as a kid's movie. Sure there are some laughs to be had here and there's still the usual Pixar charm, but at the same time I can imagine that the full value of the movie won't be realized without a careful conversation between parents and kids after watching the movie There are some things that are best explained in order to really sink in, but if you parents aren't already doing this after watching any movie, then I'm already disappointed in you.

Inside Out is a beautiful movie that manages to say so much within the span of 94 minutes. A lot of live-action movies could learn a lot from Pixar in terms of how to tell a good story. Seriously. Beyond that, the movie easily gets 5 emotional colors working together out of a possible 5.


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