Venturing into the mind of an 11-year-old girl is a risky move by Pixar; it's also a brilliant one. Original and smart as well as funny and moving, this is the kind of material we expect from the animation studio that gave us Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Up.
Emotions are at the forefront of this story, with most of the action happening inside the head of happy, young girl Riley (Kaitlyn Dias). Here five characters who represent different emotions - Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Smith) Fear (Hader), Disgust (Kaling) and Anger (Black) - float nervously around the headquarters' console hoping Joy, who is mostly in charge of Riley's state of mind, keeps everything running smoothly.
When Riley moves from the Midwest to San Francisco with her parents (voiced by Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan), her life gets turned upside down. Fear identifies the many things that could go wrong when starting a new school in a new city, and Sadness, who has until now been mostly a bit-player, can't stop herself turning Riley's happy memories into sad ones.
When Sadness accidentally sends herself, Joy, and Riley's core memories to long-term memory, Riley ends up in emotional turmoil as Fear, Anger and Disgust are left running the show. Joy and Sadness, along with the help of Riley's imaginary friend Bing Bong, must find their way back to headquarters before Riley does something drastic.
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Inside Out mixes the challenging concept of journeying through the mind, along with the familiar plot of characters needing to find a way home. Some of the material may go over the head of younger kids, but they will still able to relate to Riley's loneliness, and enjoy Joy and Sadness's colourful and humorous adventure.
Director Pete Docter and co-director Ronaldo Del Carmen have allowed their imaginations to run wild when coming up with what the inside of Riley's brain looks like. There are delightful moments as characters are rendered down to 2D images in Riley's Abstract Thought Department, travel though kooky "Imagination Land", and infiltrate Dream Productions, a studio that produces Riley's dreams each night. Adults will also enjoy the brief look into Riley's parent's brains -- in fact, it would have been great to visit here a little more often.
There are lots of wonderful things about Inside Out; stunning animation, clever scripting, a moving story and excellent voice work. But what's really cool is the way it embraces the idea that all our emotions are valid and help to make up who we are. Expect your kids to start talking about their emotions in a way they haven't before.
Though the line, "anger made it happen", shouldn't get them off the hook, it does make for interesting discussions.
Different aspects of Inside Out will resonate depending on your age, but it's genuinely a film that will satisfy both kids and adults. It's nice to see a film that celebrates all the emotions, but still manages to be optimistic and uplifting. Inside Out is the full package, and will be one of the year's favourites.
Inside Out 3D
Cast: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Phylllis Smith, Mindy Kaling, Lewis Black
Directors: Pete Docter, Ronaldo del Carmen
Running Time: 94 Min
Verdict: A top notch Pixar flick