"Inside Out" (2015)- Movie Review

Written and Directed by Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen
Co-written by Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley
Starring Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, and Lewis Black

‘The Work of a Genius’

Whoever came up with the idea for “Inside Out”, Pixar’s latest animation film, may be a genius. No kidding. This may seem like an exaggeration, but I strongly advise you to take my word for it. Having gained universal praise from critics, adults and young children alike, Pixar’s most recent animation flick has gotten all the attention in the world. And deservedly, so. An original, unique and tremendously touching film that will please both young children and adults alike, it is simply unlike anything that Pixar has ever created over it’s 25 years as a company.

Given that this is a renowned company that has given us instant classics to embrace, such as 1995’s “Toy Story” and 2003’s “Finding Nemo”, that’s saying something. Over the years, Pixar has gained a reputation for producing some of the most innovative animated films in the world. Not only have these films taught children important lessons about life, but they have also broken barriers as to what a cartoon can do. With each film, over the course of the 2000’s, this company has found unexpected ways to top themselves. Whether it is monsters, superheroes or cars, it has crafted extraordinary films out of ordinary concepts. Each and everyone of these motion-pictures have put a smile on the face of young children as well as their parents.

As a result, the expectations surrounding “Inside Out” are almost unreasonably high. It’s inevitable, though, for a company that has created animation flicks that have struck a chord with both critical and commercial audiences. Yet, just when you thought that it would be nearly impossible for Pixar to top itself, the company has made a triumphant return to form with it’s 15th motion picture. One of the best films of the year, it combines a thoughtful story, dazzling cast of voice-actors, and gorgeous visuals to create what can only be described as movie-magic. As is the case with the most memorable animated films, it fulfills the expectations of both young children and grown adults- a tricky feat that most cartoons today fail to accomplish. Not only does the film offer plenty of colorful characters to please the younger ones, but it also delivers a profound message that is guaranteed to resonate with adults.

Even if animated films are not your cup of tea, the ingenious idea behind the film is just one of the many reasons why “Inside Out” is not to be missed. Besides, due to it’s relatable story, you don’t have to love animated films to enjoy “Inside Out”. Taking place in the mind of a young girl named Riley, the story is a psychological examination of her emotions as she faces the joys and challenges of growing up. After moving to a new city, school and neighborhood, her emotions- which include joy, anger, sadness, fear and disgust- influence how Riley copes with a new transition in life.

In a sense, this is a story that everyone can relate to no matter how old you are. Childhood is one of those periods in life which we all go through- filled with moments of happiness, disappointment and regret. “Inside Out” plunges audiences right into the brain of a young girl experiencing these emotions. For a children’s animation film, it’s a subject matter that is quite bold and dare I say it, even groundbreaking. Few animated films today delve into such complicated topics, mostly because it’s a risky endeavor. After all, young children are not always ready to be exposed to such adult-like topics, especially in an animated flick. On the other hand, there’s a possibility that parents may object to a movie if they feel that it is not meant for their children.

So, it goes without saying, that “Inside Out” has an extremely challenging job to pull off. Miraculously, however, with the support of a talented cast directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen succeed. Parents need not worry; instead they can breathe a sigh of relief because this is one of those rare animated films that works on every level. Despite the risks involved in this project, and for all the things that could have gone wrong, the filmmakers execute it in a surprisingly seamless way with ease.

One of the main reasons why this film works so well is due to a brilliant screenplay, which combines heartfelt emotion, humor and multi-layered ideas. Striking a balance between humor and emotion has always been Pixar’s trademark style as a company. “Inside Out” accomplishes this, however, what distinguishes it from other films in the genre is it’s originality. Although it borrows themes from Pixar’s greatest films such as the original “Toy Story” series, this animated flick stands on it’s own as a distinct piece of art. Apart from sheer originality, the script also offers larger-than-life characters, witty dialogue and a realistic outlook on the journey of growing up. For an animation film targeted at kids, though, perhaps the most pleasant surprise in store for movie-goers is that you identify with the characters. For instance, although Riley falls into a much younger age group than me, on more than one occasion I related to her feelings in adjusting to a new lifestyle.

Another reason why “Inside Out” is without a doubt a must-see for both kids and adults is for it’s magnificent cast. A top-notch cast of actors does a splendid job in bringing cartoon characters to life, better than you could ever expect from an animated film. The actors who voice the ’emotions’ are particularly memorable, one of the major highlights of the movie.

Infusing warmth, optimism and happiness into the film, Amy Poehler is spellbinding as the emotion of Joy. An actress known for her bright presence in real-life, (ex. as the host of the Golden Globe awards) in a way Poehler is perfectly cast in this role. Illuminating the screen like a shining light bulb, she makes Joy not only charming but also likable. To put it simply, she embodies what it’s like to have a feeling of ‘joy’. Also given room to shine is Phyllis Smith, who darkens the screen with her gloomy presence as Sadness. Although Sadness is one of the only downbeat characters in the otherwise colorful animated film, Smith finds a way to make her fit into the world created primarily for young children.

That’s not to say, however, that “Inside Out” is a downer of a film without any trace of humor. On the contrary, it’s quite the opposite. After all, this is a children’s film and what would a children’s film be without humor? Balancing out moments of sadness is much-needed comical relief which comes from Lewis Black’s hilarious turn as the emotion nobody wants to mess with: Anger. Easily irritated and annoyed by the simplest of things such as pizza served with broccoli, Anger is one of the funniest characters that Pixar has come up with in recent years. Black’s scene-stealing and over-the-top performance is simply comedic gold, providing the kind of jokes that leave a wide grin on your face long after you leave the theater.

The gorgeous visuals are also guaranteed to stick with movie-goers, which is no surprise given that this is an animated flick. Eye-popping and full of life, they transport audiences to an awe-inspiring world of wonder. Even more impressive is that the film’s style doesn’t overtake it’s substance. While the visuals are a treat for the eyes, it’s unlikely that the film would be as impactful were it not for a truly powerful message. Like the most unforgettable animated films in recent years, such as 2010’s “Toy Story 3”, “Inside Out” reaches beyond what we usually expect from animation. It’s not just entertainment but education as well- a film that teaches it’s audience how to deal with the hurdles of growing up.

One of the few movies this year that made me think, laugh out loud and almost cry, “Inside Out” is without a doubt the must-see animated film of the year. Forget about “Cars 3”. Forget about “The Incredibles 2”. Don’t even think about “Toy Story 4”, which has got unbelievable expectations to live up to. If I were making these movies, I would already give up because it’s going to be a tough act to top this one.

5/5 stars

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