Director(s): Pete Docter, Ronald Del Carmen
Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black
The general consensus seemed to strongly suggest that ‘Inside Out’ was one of Disney-Pixar’s finest works, if not the best. A critically acclaimed project, and with audiences backing that up with a healthy recoup at the box-office, I was excited by an animated film for the first time in a while. We were a month or so behind here in the UK, a torturous wait for the film to land, and I was so eager to see it that I went to a midweek viewing, during the day, during the school holidays, alone. A bold move, but I had to see what all the fuss was about.
The Disney-Pixar team love bringing inanimate and unusual things to life, from toys to monsters, and after exhausting all other options, ‘Inside Out’ tells the story of human emotions and their existence within our mind. From the moment Riley is born, Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) has been her closest companion, even if she didn’t realise it. Alongside Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Joy must navigate Riley through life and ensure her happiness whilst keeping her more negative emotions at bay. But during a stressful move from her beloved Minnesota to San Franciso, Riley’s life begins to fall apart. And when Sadness gets a little too hands-on, Joy struggles to hold everything together.
Lead protagonist Joy is ironically my least favourite of the characters – which may say a lot about myself – as I found her cheesy and annoying. Sadness, the architect of the narrative’s dilemma, is exasperatingly destructive. Fear, Anger and Disgust are mildly entertaining characters, but find themselves rather neglected and underplayed; bit-parts which would only complicate things. Imaginary friend Bing Bong (voiced by Richard Kind), in the form of a pink elephantine creature, is probably the best character, adding some much needed humour and slapstick elements to an uncharacteristically mundane Disney-Pixar character roster.
One thing I cannot lament in this latest offering from the animation giants is the visuals, which were as impressive as ever. The different sections of Riley’s memories and emotions were vibrant and appealing when necessary, and delved into a more dark and unsettling level to bring a mature balance to proceedings. On the other hand, however, I feel as though ‘Inside Out’ highlighted – more than any other Disney-Pixar film – the gap between adult and child viewing experiences. I highly doubt that any child watching ‘Inside Out’ would catch onto the deeper themes of depression, puberty and emotion. Sadly, there was very little else on offer for the younger demographic this film is intended for. Absent were the silly jokes, loveable characters and simple yet entertaining narratives of classics like ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Monsters Inc’, which bring parent and child a harmonious delight. Director Peter Docter was at the helm for the latter, so it is particularly odd that he changed a winning formula.
I was then, sat in the cinema, surrounded by children who had long given up, choosing to crawl around on the floor rather than focus on the main attraction. I persevered, waiting for the “eureka” moment, the proof in the pudding, the magical turning point which would give me the same positive opinion as so many others had voiced after watching ‘Inside Out’. But it never came. The best part of the experience was by far and away the short film which preceded the feature, titled ‘Lava’, which I definitely recommend watching. I would recommend getting up and leaving the theatre after that though. I always feel bad slamming a family film like this, but for me, ‘Inside Out’ is a rare miss by a studio which is capable of much, much, better.