Inside Out movie image
Disney•Pixar's "Inside Out" takes us to the most extraordinary location yet - inside the mind of Riley. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. Directed by Pete Docter and produced by Jonas Rivera, "Inside Out" is in theaters June 19, 2015.

Inside Out

By any standard, Disney Pixar bit off a hugely complex chunk of subject matter to convey in the film, Inside Out, written by Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, as inspired from a story by Ronnie del Carmen and Pete Docter. The film was directed by Docter, whose previous directorial films include Monsters and Up.

I sat in the darkened theatre alone, no sidekick under age ten making my presence more legit – and also on the plus side, no bathroom runs mid-film, or popcorn costing the same as a chest of gold doubloons. I suspected I’d need to focus all of my grey matter on the screen to produce a coherent review. Boy, was I right.

I’ll say here that I really liked the film, but a heads-up for the emotionally squeamish: its mixed bag of psychological content reevaluates and validates the necessity of emotions – all of them, especially the uglier ones – which I think is greatly overdue as a theme, and not just for kids. It seems that a willingness in parents to go there might well be requisite in order to reap full benefit from the abstract storyline. It would help navigate emotional terrain brought up in the film that I’m guessing many kids would find new and challenging. Since the movie is all about depicting what a healthy emotional frontier looks like, if you’re a parent, it’s worth seeing the movie first on your own so that you are best equipped to get it as a family later. The film is certainly worth the extra trouble since who couldn’t use the reminder of its message, on repeat, at any age?

The story unfolds within eleven-year-old, hockey-loving Riley Anderson’s brain, referred to as headquarters. With its stacked bowling ball-like storage mechanism for memories – short-term ones, long-term ones, and core memories, tinted in the colour of the emotion that ruled the memory – blue, was of course for sadness. After the surprise move her family makes from Minnesota to San Francisco, the varied feelings felt in the quintet of her emotions – Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), has Joy (Amy Poehler) working overtime to try to manage the situation using a mixing board-like affair to quality control Riley’s emotions and keep her happy. Joy is, of course, the most easily likeable emotion, yet the necessary role the other emotions play in Riley’s ability to feel Joy’s presence is beautifully told. The teaching moments for kids are choc-a-bloc, and the Disney camp clearly get that the time for this theme in film has come, and that the students are ready not only for this one, but for its sequel.

While Inside Out was dubbed as animated comedy, I didn’t find the usual comedic relief found in other Disney Pixar films, although I chuckled a few times. Also, parents may take exception to the part in the film where Anger, in his desire for Riley to create new memories, has her run away, back to Minnesota, through the purchase of a bus ticket online using her mother’s stolen credit card. Maybe not the best teaching moment there…

Inside Out, in its unique way, examines and in the end proves flawed the don’t worry, be happy manner in which most of us have been expected to propel ourselves through life. It illustrates that in keeping up this pretence, resolution of emotional difficulties is impossible, and actually keeps true happiness at arms length.

Four and a half stars for me.

lizzie.v1A full-fledged Renaissance woman, Lizzie Shanks self-describes, with tongue firmly lodged in cheek, as having severe career ADHD.  She is a freelance writer, emerging author, and a Juno Award nominated singer/songwriter, with three critically acclaimed album releases from her years with the band Besharah. She is also an interior designer, and has provided treatment foster care to at-risk youth for over ten years. She is currently working on a new musical project.

She blogs weekly at www.bigbanglife.org.