To call the new Pixar movie a masterpiece would be expected, so let me take a step back first and dissect the situation. It’s been five years since Pixar has made what I would consider a masterpiece, with Brave and Monsters University proving to be enjoyable pieces but not at the same level of dramatic depth and emotional relevance as Toy Story 3. Still, the studio remains an untouchable force; a studio that most animation studios (even the good ones like DreamWorks and Disney themselves) can never seem to live up to. With a list of films that consist of around eight masterpieces, three great movies, and four damn good movies, it’s really hard to compete.
Lately, the question of whether Pixar has lost it has arisen, with the letdown that was Cars 2 (even though I like it more than most) and the crazy twist halfway through Brave (which I also didn’t mind). Even if Pixar seemed to have lost it, Inside Out is shaping up to be a universally recognized comeback for the studio. It’s a movie that proves to be the studio’s most creative thus far, and even though I don’t think it’s their best film, it takes its place alongside the three Toy Story movies, Up, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles as being an animated masterpiece.
The story, which involves “the little voices inside your head” is hands down the most crucially redefining idea that Pixar has ever given us, and that’s saying something when coming from a group of people that showed us what goes on in the world of the monsters in our closets and what our toys are doing when we look away. However, in the case of Inside Out, the resemblance to Toy Story, while there, is made even more personal, as we get to see the behind the scenes of our thoughts and actions, all puppeteered by little emotions inside our head.
Perfect for Pixar, this is an idea that is transitioned from paper to screen so well, with the little characters dictating the actions of our main character, little Riley, playing out like that of Remy from Ratatouille working underneath Alfredo Linguini’s hat. And truthfully, as I watched Inside Out, I couldn’t help but consider it a kind of Toy Story/Ratatouille/Wreck-it Ralph hybrid.
I would love to spend more time in this review talking about the plot, which focuses on said different emotions (Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness) controlling the eleven year old Riley. However, I refuse to give too much away, as this simple yet thought-provoking idea has more to offer than you may expect. So, just know that this idea of showing us the voices inside our heads is more than just creative; it’s a game changer.
Technically speaking, Inside Out is perfect, easily the most visually arresting animated film of 2015 so far (even though Home had its fair share of bright and beautiful visuals). As is the norm with Pixar, the movie is animated without fault, with each scene offering something to wow us, whether it be the glow around Joy or the flames above Anger or the dark depths of Imagination Land… Wait. I’ll stop there. I’m not going any further. Director Pete Docter (Up, Monsters Inc.) and his co-writers (Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley) have really outdone themselves in terms of technicality and creativity.
As the five emotions, Amy Poehler (Joy), Bill Hader (Fear), Lewis Black (Anger), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), and Mindy Kaling (Disgust) are all, collectively and individually perfect. Literally, if you are familiar with any of those performers (which you probably are), then it shouldn’t come as a shock that they are perfect, each person bringing their individual personalities to their roles that make each character stand out on their own.
And that’s what Pixar is known for. They give us stories with unforgettable characters that always, always, always end up breaking our hearts into millions of pieces. I can’t count on one hand how many times this studio has made me cry, and Inside Out is no exception to that. It’s a movie about emotions from the most emotionally wrenching studio on the planet, so, believe it or not, this one’ll make you weep.
Inside Out is brilliant. It’s one of Pixar’s absolute best, a visual treat and an emotional powerhouse. It’s one of those movies that renews your belief in not only the power of movies, but also humanity. I loved this movie, and it’s going to be hard for any other animated feature this year (eyeing you Minions and yes, even you The Good Dinosaur). This is a brilliant and original modern classic and a true return to form for Pixar Animation.
1 hr. 34 mins.
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Starring Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, and Phyllis Smith
Written by Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Pete Docter
Directed by Pete Docter