It’s been a long while since Pixar has given us something to sink our eyes into. The last time we were treated to a Pixar extravaganza was Monsters University in 2013, but the last time I was actually emotionally connected to a Pixar movie (i.e. I cried like a baby) was Toy Story 3. As for the movies in between they were just admirable stepping stones. It’s not that I didn’t like Cars 2 and Brave, I just forgot about them.
When they announced Inside Out, I wasn’t super-excited for it. A movie about a little girl and her thoughts? I mean, who cares right? It sounded like a G-rated version of the short-lived Fox show, Herman’s Head. But we were long overdue for for a movie that extracts emotions from our soul the only way Pixar knows how. With the writing team from Up on board, Inside Out seemed like it had potential to be the next big thing in the repertoire from the animation giant.
But my lukewarm feelings changed when someone I knew that worked at Pixar said that they GUARANTEE that this was going to be a big deal. They were raving about how good the movie was — and this was almost over a year ago. This is the benefit of being connected to people who are in the industry — movies get hyped up for you before they get hyped up for the general public. This, combined with all the marketing and early rave reviews, made me overhyped — and this might have been a bad thing. Now, before you start your belly-aching, let me explain.
There are some things that you get so excited about that when it actually happens, your mind is all over the place and you can’t concentrate. That’s what happened to me with Inside Out. I had to much, “joy” to contain and I just went into overdrive and had to calm my overwhelmed ass down to really appreciate Pixar’s most ambitious and conceptual, albeit beautifully told story about emotional growth that does not only apply to children, but to adults. And I know that Pixar is the maestro of doing this, but with Inside Out they were shooting for the moon. I mean, the movie is about emotions, so how could they not?
The movie is told from the mind of young Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), a young girl whose family uproots from their comfortable life in the midwest to San Francisco because her dad gets a sweet gig with a start-up (no surprise there). They move into a shitty Victorian that probably cost $2 million and Riley tries to stay positive and buries her feelings of wanting to go back to Minnesota (girl, I feel ya)… and this is when the emotions come into play.
In Riley’s head are five emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black). Joy leads the gang, but as the movie chugs along, Riley’s emotions get more complex and instead of working separately, her emotions have to work together to get her through this major transition in her life. Therein lies the sweet spot of the movie. The spot that not only tugs at you heartstrings but yanks at them with a smile. Our emotions rely on each other. It’s a balancing act. This is probably where the saying, “Sometimes before you smile you got to cry” comes into play. (I believe it comes from the song “Sacrifice” by The Roots.)
At one point in the movie, Joy and Sadness (Perfectly played by Poehler and Smith…in fact, all of the actors who play the emotions were on point. My personal favorite being Fear because I relate to his spastic nature.) get split up from the rest of the group and they have to go through Riley’s memories to get back. This, of course, throws Riley for a loop and she doesn’t act like herself. She gets moody. She becomes, well, an 11-year-old testy child.
From imaginary friends (Riley’s Bing Bong voiced by Richard Kind was a little scary to me) to our dreams and nightmares to the “science” of remembering and forgetting things from our childhood, the movie cleverly maps out the construct of memories and emotions in the human brain. It makes it fun. It makes you say, “Oh, that’s why I can remember that commercial jingle from when I was five years old, but I can’t remember all the capitals of the United States.” Even though it’s not really what happens in our head (or is it), it’s sure as hell fun to imagine this movie is an accurate portrayal of the inner-workings of our noggin.
I think I may be exaggerating about how I cried in this movie. I didn’t bawl like a baby. I got a sadness lump everyone gets in their throat when things get too real in a movie or TV show. For me, it first happened when I was watching E.T. After that, movies like Steel Magnolias and Terms of Endearment make it reappear in an instant. It’s like someone is squeezing tears out of your throat but you refuse to let it happen because it might turn into an ugly cry. These tear welled up in my eyes because of the grounded heart this movie had. It perfectly illustrated those moments in our lives when we mask our emotions, only to make them worse and, as a result, we make bad decisions. I know we’ve all been there.
Inside Out opens in theaters today.