After a two-year break since Pixar’s last offering, the studio’s latest movie “Inside Out” (in theaters nationwide June 19) reestablishes the vaunted studio as today’s most creative and stirring cinematic storytellers.
In short: Inside the mind of a 11-year-old Riley, five emotions — Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness — help guide her through a family move, after Riley is uprooted from her childhood home in Minneapolis and starts a new life in San Francisco. (watch the trailer).
“Inside Out” is an incredibly creative, fun, heartfelt and sincere story that beautifully realizes a brilliant idea and populates it with a rich cast of characters. And this is arguably the studio’s most innovative and ingenious concept yet, and undeniably the best Pixar film since “Toy Story 3.”
The beauty of this movie’s concept is its simplicity – the elementally pure “emotion” characters are allowed by bounce off each other. This simple formula, in the hands of the master storytellers at Pixars, allows the movie to tell a clean and incredibly entertaining story. The “peek inside the head” gimmick is extended beyond Riley – this movie has its most fun when the audience gets all-too-brief insights into the minds of bored cashiers, a preoccupied father and even the neighborhood cat.
But it’s the spot-on casting that allows the characters — who embody the abstract idea of specific emotions — to become fully formed characters. Amy Poehler is the embodiment of pure Joy, a character who only wants Riley to be happy — to the point where Joy becomes a bit short-sighted in her pursuit to keep Riley smiling. Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Lewis Black (Anger) and Bill Hader (Fear) are near perfect as their respective characters — each of them gets a chance to drive the story and command huge laughs.
The end product is an adventure that is as grand in scale as it is absolutely relatable. As Joy explores the deepest recesses of the mind (everything from long-term memory to abstract thinking), the movie constructs a vibrant world that is fantastic and familiar. And Pixar can always be counted on to create moving and heart-tugging moments. They are rooted in bittersweet of childhood moments and learning to let go of cherished memories. “Inside Out” is established in a simple world, yet allows the characters to grow and the world to become increasingly complex/layered (such is the world of emotions and growing up).
The few weaknesses of “Inside Out” — such as some pretty vague rules regarding the “core memories” and the logic behind the five “islands” of Riley’s subconscious — prevent Pixar’s latest from reaching true perfection, but these are technical deficiencies. When it comes to the heart and soul, “Inside Out” is an inspired, heart-warming, hilarious and moving coming-of-age story told from an inventive new perspective.
Final verdict: “Inside Out” might not be the strongest Pixar film to date, however, it certainly ranks among the studio’s most creative concepts. A perfectly cast ensemble of characters and imaginative make this ambitious comedy genuinely moving, funny and thoughtful.
“Inside Out” screened at the 41st Seattle International Film Festival and opens in theaters nationwide June 19. The latest Pixar flick is rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action.