Inside Out reviews

The Original BJ
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Re: Inside Out reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Sep 03, 2015 7:08 pm

I figure before Labor Day, I should at least lay down some thoughts on this one, for me the one summer movie really worth caring about, and in fact my favorite film of the first eight months of the year.

I'll start by acknowledging some areas that underwhelmed me, the first being that I simply wasn't as emotionally affected by it as many told me I would be. I was a total wreck during the opening moments of Up, and the conclusion of Toy Story 3, with Woody's final "So long, partner" just about destroying me. I think Inside Out is very poignant, but it never quite moved me to the core the way those earlier films did. I think part of this has to do with the fact that I wasn't all that crazy about the Bing Bong character -- in no way did I think he approached Jar-Jar Binks territory, but I also found him a little bit too zany Disney sidekick at times. And so, when we got to one of the film's big emotional moments -- "Take her to the moon for me" -- I can't say I was devastated that his character was making an exit from the narrative.

But Mister Tee noted that story about Pauline Kael making objections to a movie while watching it, and then claiming "But I loved it" once it ended, and I have to say that I pretty much feel that way about Inside Out. I could nitpick about things that didn't wow me as much as they did others, but mostly, I was pretty excited to be watching a major Hollywood movie that felt like a work of real originality and ambition. I don't want to oversell the movie based on such a simple thing, but in today's environment, where it seems like every mainstream movie is part of a franchise, or at least based on pre-existing IP, it's become such a rarity to feel like you're actually discovering characters and a storyline, that I have to tip my hat to the folks at Pixar for keeping that alive in a way that connects to such a wide swath of moviegoers so successfully.

And truly, I thought the movie went in some really interesting directions with its concept. One of the things Pixar has always been so skilled at is planting and payoff, and the way the film establishes certain elements (the rainbow wagon, Riley's imaginary boyfriend) which then become crucial aspects of the storyline is as deft as usual. And the way Riley's mind was imagined, from the train of thought, to the abstract sequence, showed a ton of invention, with lots of great throwaway details along the way -- I laughed at loud at the joke about facts and opinions getting mixed up. It also reaches a climax that I agree is pretty mature for a family film, arguing that you can't have moments in life that fill you with happiness unless you have others that make you sad.

I see the point Mister Tee is making about Riley being a bit of a blank, but that wasn't as much of a hindrance for me. I felt the film found a lot of complexity in the world within Riley's mind, particularly in the five emotions and how they responded to various triggers, and so it seemed to me that, outside of her mind, the movie needed her to be dealing with fairly simple things in order to get those points across. (Or, put another way, I found Joy and Sadness compelling enough characters on their own that employing Riley as simply a vessel for THEIR journey was fine by me.)

I'd also like to point out something that I don't think I read in any commentary on the movie. For all the talk Mad Max got about being some sort of feminist blockbuster, Inside Out is a movie primarily about the relationship between two women, whose entire journey takes place inside a young girl's mind, thus making the human mind the audience is asked to relate to a female one. This is a movie that passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, and yet no one would ever characterize this movie as "girls-only" for a second. And it's a big hit. In the words of Cate Blanchett, "The world is round, people!"

The voice cast, too, was pretty terrific -- I thought all five emotions were quite wonderfully realized by Poehler, Smith, Hader, Black, and Kaling, and think those actors comprise a pretty major contribution to the movie's zing.

In the end, I don't think the movie is so sensational that I'd encourage anyone on the Italiano/Damien side of the animated tracks to venture over -- it's on par with (and similar to) a lot of movies you already know you don't like. But, as someone who has been enthusiastic about (most of) Pixar's output over the years, I agree this is the studio's best film since Toy Story 3, and pending the release of their fall effort, a strong competitor for this year's Animated Feature prizes.

Mister Tee
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Re: Inside Out reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Jul 03, 2015 3:34 pm

Inside Out is clearly the strongest Pixar work since Toy Story 3. It has a genuinely original concept, and displays great imagination within that concept: the train-of-thought, the dream-producing soundstage, and the abstract thought passage were all ingenious, and there are plenty other smaller-impact but still clever moments along the way. The film even reaches a surprisingly complex climax, making clear that sadness is as much part of a successful life as joy (a variation on the Mickey Rooney line in The Human Comedy, “Nearly all the things a fellow learns in life are sad”). This is estimable work.

But despite seeing these virtues, I can’t say I loved Inside Out – not the way I loved Wall E, and much of The Incredibles. I admired the movie, but was never truly taken away by it. Part of this may come from being oversold – having been told more than once it was “Not just one of the best animated movies; one of the best MOVIES”, and also having been warned I’d be awash in tears by the end (I mildly misted up, at most – this after being reduced to a puddle by the finish of Toy Story 3). And part may simply be personal quirk: I was hoping for something more rapid-fire/comic. When the credits sequence scan of other people’s heads came along, I laughed so hard I wished (in retrospect) more of the movie had been along those lines.

A bigger issue, however, was that I found Riley just too thinly sketched a character for all the focus she got. All I learned about her was that she played grade-school hockey and liked pizza; everything else about her was a blank (or generic). The filmmakers might argue that part of their point was the banality of things that bring sadness to our lives, and there’s truth to that; but, honestly: to see someone get that upset because their furniture didn’t arrive on time seemed the archetypal first-world problem, and way too small an event on which to center a film.

I also thought the audacity of the subject matter was somewhat undercut by the fairly traditional structure/narrative. Once Joy and Sadness are whisked up through the tube, the film becomes a journey-back-home-through-obstacle-course movie – quite summer flick-ish, and a formula Pixar has used before, in Finding Nemo and the Toy Story’s. Yes, there was lots of invention along the way, but the rhythm of the trip was somewhat predictable. I also found that the various spots encountered on this trek, even when they were clever, reminded me a bit too much of Wreck-it Ralph in Candyland.

At this point, I’ve probably slipped over too far and sound like I disliked the movie. No such thing; there were plenty of throwaway funny moments along the route (“You’ve ruined pizza!”; “Déjà vu”; “I saw someone with a lot of hair; maybe he was a bear”), and the film is engaging throughout, with a serious enough subject at its core. I like Inside Out fine. I just wish, as always, I had seen the transcendent effort so many appear to have found in it.

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Re: Inside Out reviews

Postby Greg » Thu Jun 25, 2015 5:53 pm

Is there anyone who has seen the 3D version of Inside Out who would like to comment as to whether the 3D adds anything, or, if the 2D would be basically just as good?
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Mister Tee
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Inside Out reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Mon May 18, 2015 9:29 pm

Pixar, apparently back in form.

Peter Debruge

On paper, “Inside Out” sounded like another lunatic gamble: an adventure that takes place entirely within the head of an 11-year-old girl, featuring her Emotions as characters — although if anyone could pull off a logline like that, it would be the team that made us care about rats who cook, toys that bond, and robots who fall in love. Sure enough, in execution, Pixar’s 15th feature proves to be the greatest idea the toon studio has ever had: a stunningly original concept that will not only delight and entertain the company’s massive worldwide audience, but also promises to forever change the way people think about the way people think, delivering creative fireworks grounded by a wonderfully relatable family story.

Could “Inside Out” be Pixar’s best movie? Frankly, that question is almost beside the point. Objectively speaking, several of the studio’s previous films work better in terms of character appeal or narrative accomplishment (though when it comes to cartoons, playing favorites is inevitably a subjective game). In terms of its ambitious underlying concept, however, “Inside Out” blows the others away, going beyond the screen to become something audiences will carry around for the rest of their days — not as tie-in merchandise or spinoff theme parks (although there will inevitably be plenty of both), but as an elegant and iconic visual metaphor for understanding their own emotions, and empathizing with others’.

“Do you ever look at someone and wonder what is going on inside their head?” asks Joy, a radioactive-yellow gal (voiced by Amy Poehler, at her peppiest) who serves as both narrator and chipper team captain for a group of five Emotions assigned to Headquarters: the place in Riley’s brain where all her thoughts and feelings originate. As the upbeat young heroine’s dominant Emotion, Joy serves alongside blue Sadness (Phyllis Smith), violet Fear (Bill Hader), fiery red Anger (Lewis Black) and green Disgust (Mindy Kaling) to manage memories, generate ideas and otherwise help Riley deal with life’s challenges.

Just when her Emotions think they’ve got everything under control, Riley’s parents decide to move from Minnesota to San Francisco, sending her Emotions into turmoil — because it’s not enough for Pete Docter and co-director Ronnie Del Carmen to introduce such a compelling model for how the brain really works; they’re also expected to craft an interesting story around it. For the first 11 years of Riley’s life, her Emotions have stood crowded around an instruments panel of what looks like an air-traffic control tower inside her head. Amusingly swift glimpses into the minds of other characters suggest everyone is wired more or less the same way, while still allowing for wild variation in the efficiency of the five Emotions they’ve been dealt.

In Riley’s case, she’s young and her Emotions are still hammering out the dynamic between themselves. Like, what’s Sadness’ role exactly? “I’m not actually sure what she does. I’ve checked,” Joy says, hinting at one of the points on the film’s positive-minded agenda: helping young audiences to understand and appreciate what role Sadness plays in their own lives. (If only the film could also teach them that Boredom isn’t necessarily bad, either, but merely the sign of an inactive mind.)

Incoming memories are stored in bright glowing orbs, color-coded according to whatever Emotion was dominant at the time she experienced it, then stored in the appropriate place in the vast landscape of her mind. (Oddly, while Riley’s memories play like little movies, projected inside her head but seen from an objective outside view, her dreams are made at a movie studio with a subjective p.o.v. camera.) Riley’s brain might as well be another planet — unusually dangerous, all things considered, with different islands for each of her key qualities. It’s full of amusing nooks and crannies, like Imagination Land and the more sinister Subconscious, which this fantastic voyage takes time to visit along the way, giving composer Michael Giacchino the chance to augment his heartening score with separate mood-appropriate themes for each of these realms.

Too often, movies that introduce wildly fantastical parallel worlds never find time to explore them — the way Dorothy only visits one corner of Oz in the 1939 film, or how “Wreck-It Ralph” only taps into a few of its potential gaming universes. Docter and Del Carmen make it a point to poke around here, and though the film absolutely could have been denser, they’ve opted for just the right balance of context and story, lest spending too much time with the Emotions deprive auds of experiencing the actual emotions that come from connecting with Riley and her family.

For that reason, although “Inside Out” takes place almost entirely in Riley’s head, every so often, the film surfaces to check in on how she’s doing in real life, as if taking a deep breath of relatability before plunging back into her more abstract interior world, since it otherwise might been all too easy for the film to get “lost in thought.” We see Riley as an infant, at several stages in her childhood and again at 11 (Kaitlyn Dias), trying to cope with the disappointment of San Francisco, where the family’s house is a dump, new friends are hard to find and playing hockey isn’t the same as it was in Minnesota.

Though her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) express concern, it’s up to Riley — and by extension, the five Emotions struggling to operate her mental command center — to keep her happy amid all these changes. But something’s off: Blame it on the cross-country move or the approach of puberty, but the Emotions don’t seem to work as they always have before. Most alarming, Sadness is tired of being excluded, but every time she touches something, it turns blue … and so does Riley.

Joy — who superficially resembles Disney’s favorite fairy, Tinkerbell, minus the wings — means well, but she’s a bit of a control freak, and in trying to protect Riley’s “core memories,” she accidentally ejects herself and Sadness from Headquarters. It’s a long way back, as the brain terrain crumbles around them, and in the interim, Riley’s mental state begins to unravel with Fear, Anger and Disgust left in control, unwisely deciding that the best idea is for Riley to run away. Given the sheer complexity of concept, it was wise for Docter and his team to keep the story simple, although one can’t help but wonder how an edgier emotional challenge — such as divorce, death or an unthinkably risky “trans-parent” situation — might have given Riley’s character so much more to deal with.

While Riley and her world look consistent with Pixar’s other human creations, dating all the way back to “Toy Story,” everything to do with her Emotions demanded a unique visual solution. Docter and Del Carmen seem to have reached into Disney’s past for inspiration, seizing on the 1950s-era style seen in shorts like “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom” (plump, bespectacled Sadness looks just like that Oscar winner’s Professor Owl host), as well as then-rival UPA’s more abstract cartoon aesthetic (Fear resembles Gerald McBoing-Boing’s dad, while a crazy shortcut to Imagination Land embraces such deconstructionism outright).

In addition to linking the project to a period when advances in color film processes and stereoscopic 3D sparked wild visual experimentation in cinema, “Inside Out’s” retro look fits well with Pixar’s cutting-edge technology, blending vintage style choices with lighting and texture options previously unavailable to animators. Even something as seemingly basic as the Emotions’ skin texture — more of a pulsing mass of glowing electron-like particles, really — reflects unexpected solutions to infinite questions Docter’s gonzo idea must have raised. In other cases, it’s the streamlining of ideas that serves the material so well: from the vivid colors to the way the story always comes back to parent-child relations, playing equally well to both demographics.

As choices go, the voice casting couldn’t be better for all five of the Emotions. Smith’s Eeyore-like Sadness serves as the perfect foil to Poehler’s ebullient Joy, while Anger’s surprisingly cute appearance and diminutive stature make Black’s scenery-chewing performance that much funnier. Hader plays Fear as a nervous jitterbug, while Kaling’s disaffected Valley-girl delivery keeps Disgust (who has the least to do) feeling like an integral part of the team. Together, these five characters are so intuitive to understand, viewers can’t help but imagine a similar dynamic operating in their own heads.

To borrow a notion from Malcolm Gladwell, the pic’s “stickiness factor” is through the roof, making it one of those rare movies that transcends the medium, the way Melies visualized a moon landing or Romero invented zombies, even if relatively few go back to watch the films that spawned those ideas today. Concepts like this come around maybe once a decade, but linger for centuries, and even if others (like early-’90s TV show “Herman’s Head”) got there first, you’ve gotta hand it to Pixar for making it endure.

At the risk of hyperbole, people will still be thinking in terms of these anthropomorphized Emotions long after movies as we know them are gone, in the distant future, when screens are obsolete and immersive stories are beamed directly into your frontal lobe. There’s a reason they call Pixar’s inner team the “Brain Trust”: They can be counted on not only to imagine, but to execute such original ideas as these.

Hollywood Reporter
Todd McCarthy

The Bottom Line
It’s all in your mind, Pixar-style.

A ‘60s avant-garde head trip repackaged as a big slice of mainstream entertainment, Inside Out could easily have been titled Childhood’s End, as it ingeniously personifies the furiously erupting sensations associated with the onset of adolescence as a bunch of emotionally competitive cartoon characters.

This latest conceptually out-there creation from Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.; Up) serves up some abstractions and flights of deconstructive fancy that will most likely go over the heads of viewers with ages in the single digits. But this adventurous outing manages the great Pixar trick of operating on two levels — captivating fun for kids, disarming smarts for adults — that sets the studio apart. Reliably big summer grosses appear in store.

Although the outward physical story of the script by Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley traces the difficult adjustment suffered by tomboyish 11-year-old hockey player Riley when she’s uprooted by her parents from an idyllic Minnesota life to an unfriendly San Francisco, the real setting is inside the girl’s head. It’s a highly combustible place, a control room staffed by the buoyant, blue-haired Joy; red, top-blowing Anger; purplish, equivocating Fear; green, eye-rolling Disgust and squat, all-blue Sadness.

The mind, as we know, is a hectic place with all sorts of things bouncing around in it, and Docter and his team have visualized it in very antiseptic, almost '60s TV Star Trek fashion, as a room centered around a control panel and lined with shelves and tubes where memories and thoughts are stored. Joy has always held sway in Riley’s heretofore happy life; but now, faced with a depressing new home, an unfamiliar school, no friends and the loss of her old hockey team, Sadness, with assists from the others, is definitely ascendant.

It all flashes by very quickly, but at night control passes over to the long-term memory bank (which is hilariously seen at one point being divested of such content as piano lessons and the names of U.S. presidents), and there is a literal train of thought. If this were a different kind of film, you could easily imagine you were headed in the direction of William S. Burroughs and his friends (although if there is a sequel, it might have to deal with the effect of mind-altering substances on the brain).

As it is, Joy and Sadness take a trip down the rabbit hole of Riley’s fraying psyche, which leads into very foreign and internalized territory as far as mainstream animation is concerned. Externally, Riley is slipping fast, withdrawing from her solicitous and caring parents, rebelling against her new surroundings, becoming sullen and, for the first time in her life, is genuinely depressed, all of which leads her to plot running away from home.

What this looks like from the inside is a turbulent, decomposing landscape traversed by an increasingly desperate Joy and her ever-present companion Sadness, whose exile has seen Disgust, Fear and Anger completely assume control of Riley. The outcasts endure a perilous journey during which the physical representations of Riley’s idyllic childhood all come toppling down and the illusions of innocence, essentially represented by a kid-friendly elephant (with odd accoutrements from other critters), must be left behind.

Although this journey through the psychic and emotional underworld could have been a lot more harrowing, hellish and Bosch-like than it is, it will still probably appear perilous enough to real kids younger than Riley, who have never suffered through a crisis before.

What the film charts, then, in its highly original and disarmingly physicalized way, is the competition among the oppositional aspects of human nature. In this respect, Joy is the protagonist and heroine, but the script doesn’t pretend that any of the other emotions couldn’t take over and lead one to the wrong destination.

It’s an audacious concept, and Docter’s imagination, along with those of his numerous collaborators, is adventurous and genially daft enough to put it over. And there are unexpected surges of emotion in the late-going, as Riley’s equilibrium is re-established and the primacy of the parent-child bond is reaffirmed.

Amy Poehler’s energetic voicing of Joy dominates the dialogue, and quite agreeably so. All the other voice actors blend in nicely without being too eccentric — Bill Hader portrays Fear, Mindy Kaling is Disgust, Lewis Black is Anger and Phyllis Smith is the unassertive but undeniable Sadness. Among the “real” characters, Kaitlyn Dias plays Riley, Diane Lane is Mom and Kyle MacLachlan is Dad.

In a cheeky move on the part of Bay Area-based Pixar, San Francisco is, for once, portrayed in a negative light (the family’s new home is located on a cramped, dingy downtown street). As usual with the company’s fare, there are plenty of blink-and-they’re-gone jokes, including the depiction of the part of the brain that creates dreams as a movie studio.

In the end, Inside Out has to be one the most conceptually trippy films ever made as a PG-rated popcorn picture for the general public.

Screen Daily
By Charles Gant

Director: Pete Docter. US. 2015. 102/94 mins

Pixar Animation delivers yet another richly realised, candy-coloured universe in the reliably witty, emotionally deft Inside Out, premiering to deserved acclaim in a Cannes Out Of Competition slot. Likely to deliver commercial returns at the top end of the Pixar range, this benefits from a premise that’s relatable and ingenious in equal measure, seeking to answer that eternal question: just what is going on inside our heads? Director Pete Docter completes a winning hat-trick for his Disney-owned employer, following Monsters, Inc and Up, with co-direction this time around from storyboard artist Ronaldo Del Carmen.

Pixar’s top creative team, which pitches in on the story beats of all the animation studio’s hits regardless of individual screen credits, has long been referred to by John Lasseter as his “brains trust”. The same tag might apply to the five principal characters of Inside Out: the individual emotions that govern the actions of Minnesota-born, 11-year-old Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias), who relocates with her parents (Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan) to the alien world of San Francisco, foggy home to upscale bohemia, hilly topography and broccoli pizza.

The colour-coded quintet is led by Joy – a saucer-eyed, golden-skinned, light-bathed avatar voiced with infectious enthusiasm by Amy Poehler – who struggles to keep her hand on the girl’s emotional tiller by deflecting the interventions of Sadness (a tremulous Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black) and Fear (Bill Hader), which are rendered in the mood-appropriate tones of blue, green, purple and red.

With most of the story of Inside Out playing out inside Riley’s mind – the child’s eyes providing the emotion-themed characters’ view of the outside world – the film offers ample scope for the creativity of the filmmaking team. And that opportunity is effectively exploited, as we gradually discover a highly evolved interior landscape, which includes various personality islands (initially defined by friendship, family, honesty, goofball play and Riley’s Midwest-earned enthusiasm for ice hockey), a literally depicted Train of Thought, as well as such destinations as Dream Production and Imagination Land.

The story’s inciting incident is the family’s move to California: hitherto, most of Riley’s daily memories, which each take the form of a glass ball hued in the colour of its primary emotion, have been golden ones. But lately the child’s memory banks are becoming increasingly speckled with red, green, purple and blue, as Riley misses Minnesota, cries in front of her classmates, shouts at her father and flunks her hockey trial.

To return her to equanimity, both Joy and Sadness, who Inside Out’s three-person writing team have ejected from Headquarters, must somehow find their way back through the diverse tangle of the brain. Pacing feels occasionally less than nimble as this mismatched-buddy road-trip comedy plays out, especially when the two exiled emotions stumble across Riley’s former imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind), a creature that’s part cat, part dolphin and mostly elephant. Very young children may find this world overly and increasingly complicated, although it’s not necessary to fully understand every pit-stop – the Subconcious zone, for example – in order to enjoy the journey..

After a run of sequels plus Scottish historical fable Brave, which unfolded in a world that seemed overly familiar from existing storytelling, Pixar fans will welcome the studio’s return to creating a wholly authored and highly original universe for the first time since 2009’s Up. Such a claim comes with one tiny caveat, however: parents of a certain age may remember a similar premise informing the Numskulls cartoon strip in British children’s comic The Beano.

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