DIRECTOR: Pete Docter
SCREENPLAY: Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
STARRING: Voices of Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle McLachlan
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes (+ 7-minute short Lava)
Reviewed by Rosetta Newman
Three years ago, Brave came out, causing quite a bit of discussion because it was Pixar’s first feature film with a female lead. It was enjoyable, and a lot better than Cars 2, not that that’s difficult, but Brave wasn’t really Pixar at its best. Now here’s Inside Out and the central character is an eleven-year-old girl called Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias). That’s my daughter’s age and I’m happy there is a film out there playing in our local multiplex to a big audience where someone like her is centre stage, where she’s important. Inside Out is Pixar at its best.
Actually, Riley isn’t the central character. She’s the setting. We’re inside her head and the real central characters are the emotions who control her. There’s Joy (Amy Poehler), in a green dress with blue hair and perky to the max. Then there’s Sadness (Phyllis Smith), blue-skinned and dumpy with big glasses and a ringer for Velma in Scooby Doo. Fear (Bill Hader) is a skinny nerdy guy in a jumper and bow tie. Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is green, natch, and Anger (Lewis Black) is a stroppy little red cuboid on legs. Core memories are created in the form of giant bowling balls which are sent away for storage.
Riley has moved with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle McLachlan) from Minnesota to San Francisco, and she has the problems of losing all her old friends – though one of them is only a Skype away – and having to make new ones in a new school. Needless to say Riley isn’t too happy about this. Meanwhile, inside her head, a memory tainted with sadness causes Joy and Sadness to try to rescue it, leaving them stranded outside the control room, trying to get back with the help of Riley’s old imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind). While this is going on, Fear, Disgust and Anger are trying desperately to steer Riley but soon there’s trouble. Riley acts up, mopes, bursts into tears in front of her schoolmates, spends lots of time in her bedroom (been there, done that) and plans to run away.
What happens next is delightful, with a quality of imagination you don’t often see, and at times quite poignant. It tells us that we need sadness as well as joy in our lives, as you can’t have one without the other. With a few good jokes aimed at adults, it may well play just as well to them, if not better, as it would to children, perhaps even more so. Maybe there will be a sequel, as you can’t miss the big red button marked PUBERTY waiting to be pressed, towards the end. I’d certainly be in the queue, with or without kids in tow, if they do make one.
After a few years of wondering if Pixar had gone off the boil ‒ since Toy Story 3 in 2010 for me ‒ Inside Out has them right back on form. My dates for the afternoon, aged eleven and thirteen, were entranced. Yours truly, aged never-you-mind, had something in her eye by the end. We saw it in 3D, but frankly you won’t miss anything in 2D. Do stay for the end credits. There’s also a sweet short before the feature called Lava. If you ever wanted to see a film about singing volcanoes, now’s your chance.