Release date: 24 July 2015
Running time: 94 min
Directors: Peter Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Starring: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Diane Lane, Kyle Maclachlan, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Kaitlyn Dias
After five years of admirable failures and lacklustre sequels, Pixar are back at their very best. Inside Out offers a madcap, introspective comedy that is as hilarious as it is downright clever. Based largely in the brain of 11 year old Riley, and told from the perspective of the emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger) that guide her through her day to day life, it bears the hallmarks of the studio’s finest works. Featuring a charming odd-couple friendship so effective in Toy Story and Monsters Inc., a cast of imaginative characters as wonderful as those found in Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, and packing an emotional gut punch to rival Up and Wall-E, it plays to their strengths in all the right ways.
Pete Docter, the man who brought us Monsters Inc and Up, shares directing duties with first timer Ronaldo Del Carmen, a combination that brings some fresh ideas to go alongside some of the studio’s more familiar shenanigans. Pixar has long had a fascination with the secret world’s that exist just beyond normal vision; the toys that come alive when no-one’s watching, or the monsters that live in your cupboard. Inside Out has a similar concealed ecosystem which, while invisible to the eye, holds much sway in the lives of humans. Watching these worlds collide is a great central conceit, and it’s genuinely funny watching the emotions reacting to real world situations, as well as seeing how this effects Riley’s behaviour.
Bearing an attention to detail that can only be described as a labour of love, it is one of the studios most visually impressive offerings. Pixar have always been about the minute detail; the 2 million individual strands of hair on Sully, the water effects in Finding Nemo; they are constantly evolving and paving the way for computer generated animation. This is no exception. Along with distinctive looks which match character traits, each emotion is beautifully rendered to a painstaking degree, giving them a glowing aura, as if each one is constructed by individual particles of light.
However Pixar haven’t achieved their stellar reputation based on pretty images alone, they have always made the shrewdest decisions when it comes to selecting their voice cast. The same can be said here, with each emotion teamed with the perfect vocal companion. Anyone who has caught even 5 minutes of Parks and Recreation will know that Amy Poehler’s infectious optimism makes her the living embodiment of Joy. Phyllis Smith is an equally good choice; her snail-paced, deadpan delivery makes her the perfect fit for Sadness, while Lewis Black, forever walking the line between crotchety and explosive, is Anger personified. The pair take it in turns to steal the show.
It wouldn’t be a Pixar film without throwing you an emotional curve ball to have you blubbering in-between belly laughs. It is one thing to make a comedy that appeals to all age groups, it’s another thing entirely to make a film that can bring tears to the eyes of kids and adults alike. It does so through the emotional attachment you build with the characters, the poignant examination of memory, and the challenging transition from child to adult that will ring true with any parent in the audience. That has always been Pixar’s credo: the tears are just as important; something posited in so many of their films and realised perfectly in Inside Out.