Movies, Books & Disney+

Movie Review: Disney-Pixar’s “Inside Out” is a Worthy Addition to Pixar’s Movie Canon

Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out is the movie that I’ve looked forward to most this year. I wanted to connect with it in the way I have my favorite Disney-Pixar films. My hopes were just a little higher than the reality. While I really enjoyed Inside Out, it is the lovely short Lava that hit me in the emotional gut. I fell in love with Lava but just “in like” with the longer film about emotions – although the characters themselves are always a delight to watch on screen.

(All Photos are Copyright Disney)

Lava is about a lonely volcano, wanting to find a mate. He sings a plaintive Hawaiian song, all while seeing other creatures find their loves. Little does the volcano know that a female volcano is listening, though she isn’t in sight. She knows his song by heart, but cannot see him either. Pulling from Inside Out, this short includes sadness, joy and certainly some fear. I could listen to the song all day, and have a hard time getting through it without wanting to sob. For a film that probably doesn’t top 10 minutes long, it packs a punch.

While Lava grabbed me emotionally, Inside Out didn’t to the same extent. And that doesn’t mean it won’t in the future, I had a similar response to Wall-E (now one of my favorite Pixar films). But there are also experiences in the film – like having an imaginary friend – that I don’t share. And that does make a bit of a difference.

The premise of Inside Out is that there are emotions that live within us – in our head, actually. And if that sounds a bit like the former Cranium Command at Epcot, it may be be because director Pete Doctor was an animator on the attraction. And just like Cranium Command, the main subject is a pre-teen, in this case her name is Riley (Kaitlyn Dias). Riley is a happy-go-lucky child, with the emotions of Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness, Fear, Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust all working together – or at least in tandem – to make sure she has a safe and happy childhood, with a major dislike of broccoli. Of all the characters in Inside Out, I find Anger the most fun – whenever he gets to hit the controls, I know I am in for a laugh.

Riley’s emotional balance changes when her family moves to San Francisco. She leaves her friends, life, and hockey team behind. Her mom (Diane Lane) is close with her at this time, but dad (Kyle MacLachlan) is often at work. The home that they move to is not nearly “show ready”, their belongings have not yet arrived and the moving truck is in no hurry. Inside Riley’s head, the emotions are having major issues. Unlike the emotions inside the heads of Riley’s parents, which all work together at a table in an organized fashion (okay, you have to see the film to quite understand that!), Riley’s emotions don’t sit together and are scattered about. They sometimes fight over the controls. And Sadness really tries to make her mark on Riley, and it works. At the emotion headquarters, there are balls for every memory. Most of the balls are yellow, which means that Riley has had a very happy life. But Sadness is putting her blue tinge on the balls (which is how I started calling them “Blue Balls of Sadness”). They look like small bowling balls, and for some reason, Sadness touching them imprints a sad memory that can’t be changed. I’m not sure why Joy can’t change them back by touching them again, but Joy spends a lot of time trying to keep Sadness from making Riley’s memories somber.

I’m not even going to get into the different islands that include “family”, because they should be seen to be understood. That part didn’t work as well for me, and the center section of the film, where Joy and Sadness run into Riley’s former imaginary friend, pink elephant Bing-Bong (Richard Kind) while running through Riley’s memories was just too long to hold my interest. I found myself zoning out at this point during both screenings. That said, we know others who have a very strong emotional connection to the character of Bing-Bong, but I do not. While Joy and Sadness are away from headquarters, the other emotions are working on Riley’s day-to-day life. Unfortunately, Riley’s parents don’t appreciate her anger and disgust, which make her one sullen teenager. It all comes to a head one day, with Riley taking action on the “advice” of Anger, Disgust and Fear.

Without giving much away, it turns out that joy and sadness are not mutually exclusive emotions. The ending is powerful and emotional.

If 15 or so minutes in the center of the film had been cut, I feel it would be a much tighter film. But Inside Out is well worth seeing, and several of the characters are now favorites of mine. I do think Disgust was a little too slight in her emotion, but Joy, Anger and Sadness are perfect. I just think Anger has many of the best lines!

I do really recommend Inside Out. And bring tissues, because I did see others crying during it. Films touch viewers in different ways, which is why everyone’s “Pixar list” is different. My favorite is Ratatouille, my least favorite is The Incredibles. But I like each and every one of them. Wall-E keeps climbing my list, and I think Inside Out will do the same. It was hard for me to see others so very moved by Inside Out, and not feeling that strong of a connection. I wanted to. But even without it, we give Inside Out an A. It is a thoughtful, funny, sad, joyful and a worthy addition to the Pixar movie canon.

Inside Out is rated PG.