Movie Review: INSIDE OUT

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Sang-Hee Park

During the past several years, Pixar has seen a slow decline in quality. Sure, their movies weren’t terrible, but the stream of sequels (Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Monsters University) and moderately-acclaimed films (Brave) contrasted with the creativity and originality that Pixar HAD during the 2000’s. Finally, in the summer of 2015, Pixar released Inside Out. Responses were overwhelmingly positive, with Rotten Tomatoes bestowing an impressive 98%. The film was even nominated for two Academy Awards — Best Animated Feature and Best Original Screenplay. Inside Out was a refreshing change that everyone needed to see, but was it everything we had asked for? Let’s take a look.

Plot Synopsis:
Riley Anderson is a growing 10-year old who finds herself going through some tough times. After her father finds a job in San Francisco, her family moves out of the Midwest and tries to adjust to a new home. Her mind is guided by 5 emotions – Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear. Joy, the lead emotion, aims to keep Riley in good spirits; however, she must outshine her positivity with the other 4 negative partners, especially Sadness. When Sadness seems to interfere with Riley’s first day at school, she and Joy contest to keep each other in line, until they are both accidentally whisked away from the brain’s headquarters. Now, Joy must find her way back to bring Riley back her happiness while handling with Sadness’ melodramatic hysterics and the tumultuous environment of Riley’s psyche.

While my parents checked out Jurassic World, my older brother and I saw this movie. Sitting in a theater packed with other families, I was taken back to my younger years, when I would watch Disney films with youthful excitement. A strange sense of nostalgia tickled my senses. Luckily, the audience around me seemed just as excited. Nearly every joke got a laugh out of me and the rest of the theater. During mournful scenes, we teared up together. When the credits rolled, I felt like a kid again.

Inside Out surpassed my expectations. The CG (computer-graphics) animation looked smooth and vivid, serving well for dramatic action scenes and facial expressions. In the colorful world of Riley’s mind, concepts like memory and thought were represented in abstract, yet creative ways.

Character and design-wise, Riley felt a little bland, but her emotions steal the show. They’re all extreme mentalities with strong, contrasting appearances without being one-dimensional. Joy is allowed to feel despondent, and the other emotions can feel optimistic as well. Their purposes are straight-forward with room for development. Additionally, the casting was impeccable. Amy Poehler plays the optimistic eccentric Joy, Phyllis Smith plays the depressed Sadness, Mindy Kaling plays the cheeky Disgust, Lewis Black plays the disgruntled Anger, and Bill Hader plays the anxious Fear. Every voice actor/actress has nearly perfect delivery with every line.

I was also amazed by how dark and real Pixar was willing to go. Riley’s downward spiral (a mid-life crisis for adolescents) parallels one’s struggle with depression. The audience can relate to her emotional roller coaster, because everyone has gone through a change in their lives.

*SPOILER START* Most of all, I loved the overall message; your mental health needs a balance of positivity and negativity.  Joy had the right intentions by brushing off Sadness from the controls, but Sadness was just as important as any other emotion. Without anguish, she couldn’t have reflected on her decision to run away from home or told her parents how she really felt about her problems. Sadness wasn’t just a nuisance; she shaped Riley’s downcast spirits in a healthy way and helped her get empathy from other people.

If I had to nitpick, one problem would be the movie’s lack of focus with the world it develops. Riley’s emotions often oscillate between being Riley and acting as Riley’s caretakers. Sometimes, they control her every action with the push of a button, and other times they look over her as protectors and guardians. In relation to character design, I am bothered by how Joy, Sadness, and Disgust, the 3 female emotions, all have distinctly human appearances while Anger and Fear, the 2 male emotions, look very abstract and stylistic. (A criticism pointed more towards the animation industry rather than Pixar themselves – making feminine characters more humanlike and ‘pretty’ while masculine characters have more flexibility and range when it comes to looks)

Overall, Inside Out was a delight to see, demonstrating both the fantastic animation and creative writing that Pixar is known for. I’ve seen this flick multiple times, and I get quality entertainment with every viewing. With the high standards Inside Out brings to Pixar’s table, I’m looking forward to seeing the next Disney film (get pumped for Moana!) later this year.

I Would Rate This:
9.5 Broccoli Pizzas Out Of 10

You Should Check This Out If:
You’re looking for a colorful, creative film for the family (And you’ll wonder what kinds of adventures your emotions are getting into)