Pixar has probably had the longest string of blockbuster hits of any other brand out there. I’d say studio, but they’re no longer their own beast after Disney gobbled them. They consistently manage to push technology and tell stories in new ways. Inside Out is no exception to that rule.
On the surface, this is a simple story of a girl coming to terms with a family move. A bit deeper it is about all children growing into young adults. At its deepest it hits on a meme that has been circulating in many pieces of entertainment lately: “Which dog do you feed?” In short, have you figured out how to use and balance all the emotions in your head, or do you only feed the negative ones; something all adults have to come to terms with at some point or another.
I would have liked to have had a story more like Up or Ratatouille; basically something a bit less abstract as I’d never seen a Pixar on the big screen. (I know, sad of me, but a combination of timing and misplaced lack of interest, what can I say?) But co-directors and co-writers Docter (Monsters Inc.) and Carmen, who were involved with those previous films, pulled me into their vision and taught me their language and convinced me to go along. In the end I found myself buying into the idea and story completely, after my fear that we were simply witnessing a metaphorical excuse for bad behavior was assuaged.
The voice talent helped pull off this minor miracle. Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Hader (The Skeleton Twins), Black (Penguins of Madagascar), Smith (The Office), Kind, and Kaling (Mindy Project), as the inner self of new-comer Dias’ efforts were all having a ball, but never losing the thread of their efforts. Dias herself found a great balance, keeping Riley believable as she dealt with life and her parents, voiced by Lane (Man of Steel) and MacLachlan (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
This is not my favorite Pixar film (that’s still Incredibles or Ratatouille), though the short, Lava, surprised me no end (who thought you could cry for a volcano?). But I still am impressed with the complexity that the storytellers there are willing to take on, and the honesty with which they usually approach it. They know life isn’t simple and they don’t pretend it is, they just offer nice endings to the challenges to keep it all in the family realm. But don’t go over-analyzing it while you’re there (I surely didn’t), just enjoy it for the imagery and imagination it celebrates. The fact that all of the aspects surfaced due to the movie later is a credit to its creators.