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Review: Inside Out

Even the most ardent Pixar Animation Studio fans will begrudgingly confess that the studio’s latest string of films were lacklustre at best. Monsters University lacked the universal humour of its predecessor, as did Cars 2, and Brave’s characters lacked complexity and depth. In its successful heyday of films that included modern classics such as The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Up, and Wall-E, the studio brilliantly blended satirical social commentary with sweeping stories that both adults and children could equally appreciate. Most importantly, these films tenderly tugged on their audience members’ heartstrings and made worldwide audiences feel a plethora of emotions. Heck, ask any grown man about the opening heartbreaking moments of Up and he will candidly acknowledge that he cried while watching it. And so it should come as no surprise that the studio’s latest film, Inside Out, creates an emotional resonance, but in a wholly original way. Taking place inside the head of an eleven-year-old girl, the film’s focus is that of the central emotions she experiences and expresses. Director Pete Docter (Up)’s latest is a skillful return to form for Pixar and will give you all the feels.

The film opens by asking, “have you ever looked at someone and wondered what was going on inside their head?” and then zooms inside the head of newborn girl Riley (later voiced by Kaitlyn Dias). Inside the epicentre of her mind there is only Joy (voiced by the incredible Amy Poehler), who utilizes a basic console to make Riley feel the emotion and exude its essence (in the case of joy, it is smiling and laughter). For every key brief moment that occurs in Riley’s life, a glass ball, tinted with the color of the primal emotion felt during those moments, appears in “headquarters”, thus storing it in short term memory. At the end of each of Riley’s days, as she fades into a satiating slumber, the collective of the daily balls are shipped to long term memory.

It’s not too long, however, before a larger console appears and, with it, the central emotions of Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness (voiced, respectively, by comedic talents Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Lewis Black, and Phyllis Smith). Acting as the dominant mediator between the mental states, Joy manages to maintain an inner peace within Riley until the day Sadness starts altering the coloration of her memories. In a flurry of activity, Joy, in the act of trying to undo the changes Sadness has irreparably created, gets transported (along with Sadness) to a different area of Riley’s head. In an exciting adventure the odd couple must find their way back to headquarters and try to loosen the depression that has taken ahold of pre-pubescent Riley.

For a film that is seemingly targeted towards a younger audience, Inside Out boldly addresses the stigma of mental health and teaches people of all ages that sadness and joy do congeal, and that it is perfectly normal to openly express said emotions. While adult viewers may initially be nodding their heads, recalling their Psychology 101 education, the film will undoubtedly recall one’s childhood memories and nostalgia for time gone by (while also cheekily addressing earworm commercial jingles, why we can’t remember phone numbers, and long lost beloved imaginary friends).

Inside Out will have you hooked on a feeling (or five).

[star v=45]

Leora Heilbronn

Leora Heilbronn is a Toronto based film aficionado who has a weakness for musicals and violent action flicks. She can often be spotted reading a wide range of literature or listening to show tunes.