Inside Out

Directed by Peter Docter

Starring Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan and Richard Kind
In UK Cinemas July 24th, 2015

by Richard Hamer

While it would be an exaggeration to say that Pixar are in danger of losing their richly deserved reputation as the premiere animated movie studio on the planet, it might be fair to say that it’s been some time since they’ve been at their best.

Between decent, underwhelming originals (Brave) and money spinner sequels that nobody asked for (Monsters University and for goodness sake Cars 2), it’s been a while since they produced a new film that vaulted the – admittedly ludicrously high – bar they’ve set for themselves.

Inside Out is that film.

It’s just a joyous thing: a celebration of the human spirit both heart-warming and entirely lacking in mawkishness, a wonderfully funny comedy and a peerless testament to Pixar’s mastery of computer animation.

This is the story of Riley, an 11-year old girl whose life is thrown into turmoil when her dad’s career forces her family to move from Minnesota to San Francisco, leaving behind her friends, her hobbies, her home. As her domestic drama unfolds in the real world, in the world inside her brain the characterful personifications of her Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear struggle to keep Riley on the emotional straight and narrow.

An accident in the control room that is her mind causes Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) to become separated from the others, beginning a strange and incredible journey home, through the twisted labyrinth of Riley’s brain.

What makes this journey brilliant – and this is a hallmark of Pixar at its best – is the thoroughness with which the idea is explored. As Toy Story did for the world of children’s toys, Inside Out does for the world inside the brain: each of the million disparate, crazy ideas (and it really is crazy in a way the trailers have thankfully avoided spoiling) are so carefully interconnected as to create something coherent enough to be strangely believable. There is a simple joy in just watching, thinking to yourself “I wonder if they thought of —” only to find minutes later they had, it’s funny, and they visualised it in a way you never would have thought of.

And visually it is stunning, and not just in the technical sense. In some ways it’s reminiscent of Ghibli’s recent The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, in its moments where a veteran studio feels obliged to remind everyone just how good they are, with surrealist gags and startlingly experimental animation. A scene set inside Riley’s subconscious in particular stands out as among the strangest sequences Pixar have ever produced.

But it’s the character and story that these ideas are wrapped up in that are ultimately what makes Inside Out a triumph: It’s first and foremost a comedy, an almost brutally rapid fire succession of sight gags and quirky one-liners, its central double act of Joy and Sadness an odd-couple pairing to rival Buzz and Woody. Yet it’s also remarkably poignant, gifted with that subtle wisdom to say something true without ever really needing to say it, in a world bright and breezy enough that its emotional sucker punches are all the more remarkable for how unexpected they are.

Both a tender, affecting exploration of the value of emotional honesty and the best movie to feature a gag about a dancing unicorn being attacked by a clown, Inside Out – much like in the orderly, efficient control room of a healthy mind – is the perfect mixture of Joy and Sadness.

Our Cannes Film Festival review of Inside Out.

Inside Out London press conference coverage.

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