Movie Review with Jeff McCullough: Inside Out

By Jeff McCullough on June 19, 2015 from Movie Review via

Inside Out is an exceedingly rare kind of film, one that only comes out once or twice a decade. Like Almost Famous, It’s A Wonderful Life, and Up (not so coincidently directed by Pete Doctor, the masterminded behind this film), it’s a movie that’s transcends the medium, a force that reaches through the screen, gives you a hug, and tells you everything’s going to be ok. Pixar is well known by now for putting profound messages and what would normally be considered kiddie fair, but Inside Out kicks things up to 11, delivering the studios best film in years.
We follow the life of 11 year old Riley, the “happy monkey” of her family, and the five guys and girls taking control in her head. Riley’s emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust, are anthropomorphic beings who hang out and Riley’s cranium, controlling her actions and general sense of well-being. Since birth it’s been primarily Joy behind the wheel, giving all the care free happiness and innocence of childhood free reign to shape Riley’s core memories and personality, while the other emotions stand around and twiddle their thumbs.
But as everyone finds out eventually, the innocence of infancy eventually must be shed, with all the heartbreak that accompanies it. For Riley, it takes place in the form of a move from her beloved Minnesota to the altogether strange and alien California. The emotional turmoil strikes disaster, and a series of unfortunate events cause Joy and Sadness to be sucked away into the deep recesses of Riley’s mind, leaving only Fear, Anger, and Disgust in control. And with the inability to feel happy, and the unwillingness to reflect on her own misery, Riley becomes the perhaps most feared specimen of human- an adolescent girl unsure of her way in the world. Now it’s up to Joy and Sadness to make it back and save the day.
From the very beginning, everything in Inside Out clicks, in no small part due to its ensemble cast of emotional avatars. And while everyone gets their time to shine (Fear is particularly hilarious) its Amy Poehler’s Joy who stands out as a truly exceptional character, easily up there with Buzz, Woody, Dory, and all the other fantastic personalities Pixar originated over the years.
A glowing yellow bundle of energy with neon blue hair and an infectious smile, Joy is a delight to watch, a real embodiment of the zealous excitement that kids express. But, despite her eccentric zaniness, she’s not a one-note character. Even with her seemingly unending strength, Joy is just as prone to sadness, anger, fear, and disgust as the rest of us. And it’s through the journey that’s she’s faced with that Inside Out delivers its lesson.
Unlike most family films that spit out overused moralistic trice like “sharing is caring” and “being a bully is mean” Pixargives us something else entirely. Inside Out’s showcase of maturation, while not featuring anything as genuinely emotionally devastating as Up, or as nostalgic as the Toy Story films, is still a profound tale, in this case one aimed more at parents than the tykes.
Looking back, even as young as I am, my best memories are bittersweet. The times spent with my grandparents are tinged with the memory of their death. Afternoons with my childhood best friend are hurt by the remembrance of our following out. But unlike so many people believe, this isn’t a bad thing.
 There simply can’t be happiness without sadness, and a little bit of melancholy strengthens rather than take away. The joy of childhood is a fantastical one but immature one, something that needs to be shed for true happiness to intercede.  It’s a message many films, let alone kid’s films, are afraid to say, and I applaud Inside Out for taking the road less traveled and delivering such an exceptional film.
Pixar’s perfect reputation has been somewhat tarnished in the past couple years, but Inside Out shows not only has the famed company not lost its mojo, but has invigorated it. Their best film in years, Inside Outis nothing short of another animation masterpiece.
4 and ½ out of 5 stars

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