The premise: 11-year-old Riley experiences emotional turmoil after her family relocates to San Francisco, as told by the emotions that live in her head. When Riley loses her core memories, emotions Joy and Sadness go to recover them while Disgust, Anger, and Fear try to keep Riley happy.
My reaction: Huh. That’s as much as I could muster from my ambivalent emotions about this film.
I don’t want to be too harsh on this movie. When “Brave” came out, I felt let down. Pixar took interesting characters, a beautiful setting, and a mysterious concept, all of which had the potential to be amazing, and failed to deliver.
“Inside Out” is different in that regard. Of all the Pixar films, I think this is the best, most original idea they’ve ever had. Usually, it’s hard to get me on board with Pixar premises; growing up, I didn’t beg to see movies about toys that come to life, rats who love to cook, or fish dads who save their sons (“Finding Nemo” is one of my favorites, but I wouldn’t have seen it had I known about the plot).
With “Inside Out,” I could tell the creators had fun making it. I loved how they took abstract, difficult concepts–emotions, conflict, the brain’s inner workings–and gave them each concrete visual representation. That’s hard to do–especially in a kid’s movie!
I loved the character designs for each emotion (Anger was my favorite). I liked the cute little quips about brain function and puberty and the similarity of facts and opinions (good one, Pixar). Along the way, though, I felt I was being talked down to. I don’t think this is something you can excuse by saying, “Hello, kid’s movie!” because I generally don’t feel this way about Pixar films.
It couldn’t help comparing “Inside Out” to my two favorite Pixar films: “Up” and “Wall-E.” Yes, “Wall-E” has its critics and even I’ll admit it gets preachy, but there are so many things I love about it. So much emotion–including an entire romance between two robots–is conveyed without dialogue. “Up” is similar in that its heaviest emotions are conveyed through music and images. Where “Inside Out” could have–and should have–done the same, it relied too much on dialogue.
That was the film’s biggest problem for me. In almost every scene, there were three lines of dialogue where one would have worked. The whole film came off as “talky.” I won’t say “preachy.” I’m tempted to, but that’s not what I mean. The message is a good one for kids–and adults–to learn, and it was driven home in a touching scene–with no dialogue, by the way–that made me weep. I just wish Pixar had trusted its audience a little more. Kids are smarter than you would think. My other big beef with the film was Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend.
I hated Bing Bong. To me, he was just as terrifying as the clown that plagued Riley’s subconscious. I could have handled five minutes of Bing Bong, but he stuck around for the rest of the film. I understand the point of having him there: growing up is bittersweet and sometimes things from our childhood have to be left behind. Ironically, though, the movie wouldn’t leave Bing Bong behind, no matter how much I begged.
I think this is a movie people should see. It’s extremely creative and has some good bits strewn throughout, including some extras in the end credits and one shot of animated eye candy. The cast is perfect and, heartless as I am, I cried during most of the movie. “Inside Out” isn’t terrible, but it isn’t the magnum opus I had hoped for.