Of late there can be no denying that Disney/Pixar are on one hell of a hot streak. Toy Story 3, Frozen and Big Hero 6 being some of many brilliant animated films that jump to mind. So how does Inside Out compare up against films like these? Is it up there in the pantheon of modern-day animation classics? The answer is a simple three-letter word…Yes. In my opinion not only is it up there, it raises an already high bar even higher. Films as complex and rewarding as this one are a very rare commodity. Its artistic ambition and scope is a thing all movies should aspire to. This film is a piece of cinema at its magic best. Watching a film like this one is enough to help you forget about some of the unoriginal dross polluting cinema of late.
Now whilst you could write a thesis on some of the more complex aspects of this film, in spirit, it is an animated adventure comedy. Set in the mind of Riley, an 11-year-old Minnesotan girl, the film follows a crew of emotions inside of her, Joy(Amy Poehler), Sadness(Phyllis Smith), Anger(Lewis Black), Disgust(Mindy Kaling), and Fear(Bill Hader) that help her deal with life. Joy is the dominant emotion in Riley’s life, Fear keeps her safe, Disgust keeps her broccoli free, Anger throws her tantrums, while Sadness mopes around, only taking over every now and then. All in all, the emotions do a good job, and keep things running smoothly, which keeps Riley happy. However, all of this changes one day, and they suddenly find things thrown into chaos when Riley is up rooted from her home, and moved to a scary little backwater in Northern California. A place so horrible, they even serve broccoli on pizza!!!(San Francisco, the horror!).
Taken away from her home, her friends, her hockey team and everything else she and they have known, the emotions soon conflict on how best to help Riley adapt. For starters there is the creepy looking new house, complete with a dead rodent. Things are not helped when the removal truck with all of the family’s stuff somehow ends up in Texas, denying Riley the comfort of her things. When a dispute between Joy and Sadness leads to them disappearing from headquarters, it is left to the remaining emotions to try to help Riley, whilst Joy and Sadness must work together to try to find their way back to headquarters.
At this point, the film essentially splits into two strands as we witness the fallout in Riley’s life caused by Joy and Sadness’ absence, whilst we also follow Joy and Sadness’ adventure as they try to find a way back to headquarters. As Fear, Anger and Disgust struggle to cope in their absence, Joy struggles to get herself and Sadness back to headquarters, as one by one, the islands of Riley’s personality collapse without them. Lost in her long-term memory, they find help in the form of Bing Bong(Richard Kind) Riley’s old imaginary friend from her infancy. With Bing Bong’s slightly erratic help, they try to navigate a way back through various parts of Riley’s consciousness.
As we follow our bumbling friend and our mismatched heroines, we get to explore the wonderful and complex universe of Riley’s mind.( I could write essays on how wonderful this universe is, but I get the feeling that plenty of psychiatry and cinematic students will be doing that in the not too distant future!) Some particular delights are the literal train of thought, and the movie set which produces Riley’s dreams. The adventure of our three amigos is fraught with perils but full of laughs. And it must be said, this is a very funny movie. The kids will find some of the more slapstick moments hilarious, but adults will love the many absolute gems of humour scattered throughout the movie, from Anger’s newspapers (Definitely a nod to The Simpsons there), the differing emotional crews of Riley’s parents, and the many other rib cracking moments. To cap this off, the film has possibly the funniest credit rolls I’ve ever seen. I have not laughed this much at an animation since the distant glory days of the The Simpsons. Indeed, the last few minutes, whilst setting things up for a possible sequel, also explore the genius behind the film’s core idea.
And this film is indeed a piece of genius. The concepts, the animation, the story, the humour, everything is first class. It may not make the most noise this summer, but it is the only classic I have seen. It is simply unmissable in every sense.5 Stars.