MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Pete Docter, Ronaldo del Carmen. Animated Feature.
How exactly does the mind work? How does a cute little baby turn, in just a few years, into an inward-focused and sullen preteen? What is the purpose of imagination? How do we learn to compartmentalize memories? Is there anything troubling to say about unremitting joy or hopeful to say about sadness?
These big themes are tossed around in Inside Out, the new film from Disney/Pixar and it is an amazing accomplishment. Funny, smart, and full of surprising plot twists, it’s a movie that I want to watch again to savor its visual and verbal wit and its deep levels of playfulness and compassion.
The main story is a familiar one. Because of new job opportunities for her parents, 11-year-old Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is forced to move with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco. Leaving the familiar behind for an unknown future is always an emotionally charged transition, but Riley seems especially upset, which worries her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan), who love her dearly.
Inside of Riley’s head, her emotions are also confused and concerned. Joy (Amy Poehler) is wary of Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and how her unexpected acts are making Riley feel terrible. Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) all have something to say, as well. When Sadness sets off a chain reaction of calamity, Joy takes her hand and the two head off inside of Riley’s head to fix things, leaving Anger, Fear and Disgust in charge. As Joy and Sadness undertake their quest, we observe Riley and her parents and their challenges with this changing emotional landscape.
Inside Out has enough good psychology to make it a great discussion film for parents and children; it also has enough goofiness to keep it from ever becoming too heavy-handed. Its visual forebears include everything from 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, 1953’s The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T., the 1953 Merrie Melodies cartoon “Duck Amuck” and The Bell Laboratory Science Series of animated TV specials from the 50s and 60s. (It also reminded me of that forgettable 90s Fox TV sitcom “Herman’s Head”, but the least said about that, the better.)
Compared to other Pixar classics, Inside Out is not as serious as Wall-E but more demanding than Monsters Inc. It’s definitely the best Pixar film since 2009’s Up, also directed by Pete Docter.
Be sure to stay through the closing credits for a fun-filled emotional roller coaster of gags.
It’s been many years since I’ve been a preteen, but you might want to check with your kids to see if the emotions of Inside Out ring true. They probably won’t want to talk to you about it.
Four halos: A delightful and thought-provoking family film about emotions, especially those that appear during early adolescence.
One pitchfork: The movie is emotional by design; anger, sadness and fear are well represented and may trouble some younger kids.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
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