* This post may contain spoilers *
Pixar’s Inside Out debuted last week to huge box office success. In fact, it even broke the record for best opening by an original film. It would seem that Pixar has another hit its hands, but does the film really stack up the studio’s pedigree of originality, humor, and sentimentality?
Inside Out is really two stories in one. Part 1 of the story takes place in the typical human world. Riley is an 11 year old girl who has a great life as a kid. She has awesome parents, friends, and memories growing up in Minnesota. These experiences enable her to be one of the happiest children around. Things get a little rocky when the family is uprooted to San Francisco for Dad’s new job opportunity. Riley’s happy demeanor abruptly shifts and she no longer is the goofy, family loving, hockey playing girl she used to be.
Part 2 is the story going on inside Riley’s head. Riley’s emotions are controlled by 5 distinct feelings led by Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler). Joy is joined by Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). This quintet of feelings is stationed in a command center where they control Riley’s emotions and reactions to the world. At the most inopportune moment, the aforementioned move to San Fran, ringleader Joy and marginalized Sadness are accidentally sucked out of the command center. They must journey from the outer reaches of long term memory to the command center before Riley’s emotions are all shot.
Visually speaking, Inside Out creates an immersive and engaging environment for the story to take place in. There are plenty of clever physical structures that come out of popular phrases like the train of thought and abstract thinking. Since it is a movie based on emotions, you would expect it to get emotional and boy does it. Characters like the imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind) and all too familiar family scenario many can empathize with provide a framework for tears from the audience.
In spite of these strengths, Inside Out ranks as an average Pixar film. That certainly isn’t a bad thing since almost all Pixar films are on another level compared to other animated features. I wasn’t enamored by the predictability of this film. Everything from the underutilized character coming up clutch to the foreseeable sacrifice by Bing Bong seemed to lack nuance that is usually accompanied with these important plot points in Pixar’s stories. The film has sentimentality in spades due to the very nature of the story, but grades average in the humor and plot department. Overall, it’s a quality film and worth seeing in theaters, but temper your expectations.