I'm a sucker for animated movies, always have been, and most likely, always will be. There was no doubt in my mind, then, that I would be seeing the latest Pixar venture, Inside Out, on opening weekend.
Before diving into the feature, it's worth the price of admission just for the short that appears before the film, Lava. Lava tells the story of a volcano looking for love, and is set to a song in the style of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I, and many others in the theatre, were sobbing by the short's end, so I already knew I would be in for Toy Story 3 levels of an emotional rollercoaster ride.
The movie follows Riley, an 11 year-old, who is dealing with the stress and sadness of leaving her home, friends, hockey team and life in Minnesota, to San Fransisco, where her father's gotten a new job. And though Riley might technically be our protagonist, the stars of the movie are a little bit more behind the scenes. The real showstoppers are Riley's emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader) and Anger (Lewis Black).
The story really begins when Joy and Sadness get sucked into the Long-Term Memory maze and must traverse abstract thought (where they literally become Picasso-style abstractions), Imagination Land (buildings made of clouds and French-Fry mountains abound) all the way to Dream Productions (a literal soundstage full of producers and
actors who prepare dreamscapes each night for the dreamer) to get back to Headquarters. Without Joy running the show back at HQ, things start to go downhill fast with Disgust, Fear and Anger in charge.
The film is completely inventive (trains of thought are literal trains that run through Riley's mind), it's as beautiful and colourful as any good Pixar movie (the detail in the hair alone has become so incredibly lifelike, it's getting hard to remember we're dealing with animated creatures), and the emotions are succinctly different characters, all fully realized despite being literally made up of one emotion. And the best part is, we learn exactly why we get catchy jingles stuck in our heads all the time (I dare anyone coming out of this movie not to have the "TripleDent Gum" jingle going around their brains).
Like all Pixar films, this one is good for children and adults alike (going to a later show, the theatre was mostly adults, and many a sniffle was heard by the end). However, it is by far not Pixar's greatest effort, a title that, for me, still remains with Wall-E. Whereas in Lava, a five-minute short about an anthropomorphized volcano, had real emotional depth, Inside Out, a movie about actual emotions, sometimes ran a bit shallow. I was hoping for my own
emotions to run high from beginning to end, however, only towards the climax and resolution was there a deep emotional connection. That being said, the creativity factor of the film was so powerful, it could outweigh this disconnect.
The film is funny, touching, and wonderfully acted by the incredible voice cast and it is well worth spending some dollars on seeing it on the big screen.