Plot: Riley is a young girl who has just moved to San Francisco with her parents, which has left her depressed and in a negative mindset. She misses her friends, her hockey team, and her old house, but she makes an effort to make the best of the situation. Inside her brain, her emotions run wild and while Joy tries to keep everyone positive, Sadness keeps getting involved. Even once happy memories have been touched by Sadness, which pushes Riley further into a negative head space. Joy has been in charge for a while, but she seems to be the last bastion of Riley’s happiness, as Sadness, Anger, and Fear seem to be pushing for influence over Riley’s emotional state. Meanwhile, Riley is riddled with sadness and even cries in front of her class, which prompts Joy to take drastic measures. But her plan to quiet Sadness backfires and both of the emotions are pulled from the control room, leaving Anger, Fear, and Disgust in charge. As Joy races to return to the control room, Riley’s emotions run wild and her memories begin to fade, but can the downward turn somehow be reversed?
Entertainment Value: An Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature, Inside Out is one of Pixar’s true triumphs, which given that studio’s consistent excellence, is about as high a compliment as I can hand out. The narrative seems simple enough, as various emotions negotiate inside a young girl’s mind, but once the story starts to unfold, it becomes clear this is a deep, rich narrative told in masterful fashion. This is an animated movie aimed at younger audiences, but it never talks down to them or insults their intelligence, this is a bold, insightful picture. The concept is so universal, the emotional balance and how our minds process our feelings, so anyone can relate to Inside Out and the battle that happens inside Riley’s brain. The premise of showing children that being sad is not only ok, but valuable is quite an ambitious task and it is achieved here, in smart, funny, and effective ways. The movie also doesn’t sacrifice entertainment in the process, as Inside Out is populated with colorful, memorable characters, sharp dialogue, and a great sense of humor. A fun, smart movie with effective emotional beats, Inside Out is one of the best animated features out there.
As I said, the movie has some colorful characters and the cast matches that, filled with great choices that really embrace their roles. Phyllis Smith is beyond perfect as Sadness, as her voice has the slow mope that the character needs, while Amy Poehler has the mile a minute optimism that is ideal for Joy. I had fun with the dynamic between the two as well, as Joy and Sadness spend a lot of the film together and the two actresses have a great back and forth. Although she doesn’t get a lot of moments to shine, Mindy Kaling was perfectly cast as Disgust, with her dismissive and vapid persona, while Bill Hader’s nervous energy brings Fear to Life and Lewis Black’s explosive presence is again an ideal choice for Anger. Richard Kind also shines in his role, while the cast also includes Kyle McLachlan, Diane Lane, Frank Oz, and Kaitlyn Dias. Inside Out also boasts some just spectacular animation, with the real world looking great, but the inner mind being home to some creative, inventive visuals. The designs are fun and brilliant, especially in the emotions and once we see into other people’s brains, those designs seem even more fun than before. This is just a cinematic masterpiece, of both animation and film in general, a beautiful and masterful movie.