Before we get started, I need to put this out there: I imagine that during the conceptualisation for every Pixar movie, there’s a huge screen with the words “How do we make grown adults cry?”. In bright neon letters. Next to a framed picture of George RR Martin.
Inside Out, Pixar’s latest attempt to do just that, breaks away from the usual mold of talking animals, toys, cars, a dog with a voice collar or Cookie Monster’s second cousin Sully.
Instead, it brings to life the little voices in our head. Or in this case, 11-year-old Riley’s (Kaitlyn Dias) head.
First on the scene is Joy (Amy Poehler), the defacto leader of Riley’s voices and, by default, Riley’s usual state of mind. She’s quickly joined by Sadness (Phyllis Smith), probably every working adult’s favourite emotion. Yes, mine too.
Completing the gang in Riley’s mind/Headquarters are Anger (the perfectly-cast Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). The emotions take responsibility for Riley’s actions and the memories associated with them, coloured according to how she feels when the memory is first formed.
Everything seems to be going well until Riley’s parents make the move from Minnesota to California, after Riley’s dad (Kyle MacLachlan) decides to follow the tech startup dream and move into a cramped San Francisco house.
Of course, the move is emotionally draining on Riley, and things happen.
In an attempt to stop a sad memory being stored permanently in Riley’s “core memories”, Joy, Sadness, and the core memories end up being sucked up and out of the Headquarters, and leaving only Anger, Fear, and Disgust.
And as another little green fella once told us, Anger and Fear eventually lead to murdering Ewoks, so Joy and Sadness are on a mission to return to the HQ and help Riley become whole again.
Their journey through Riley’s mind brings to life the brain in a way that’s both whimsical and realistic at the same time.
Inside Out, while seemingly a kid’s movie on the surface, is easily one of the more relatable Pixar films in recent memory.
That’s not to say talking toys and fish aren’t easy to relate to, it’s just everyone can recognise the little voices in our own heads, albeit with a less star-studded cast.
Many times I found myself laughing, not just because of the humour, but because I could really see the situation happening in real life in my head.
And the message behind the movie (which I won’t spoil for you here), is an important one for both kids and adults, and probably adults with kids.
Storytelling has always been Pixar’s strong point, and Inside Out certainly solidifies this.
For all the character design and wonderful animation/digital effects, it would be pointless if the story fell flat. But it doesn’t, and at times I was even fighting off those stealth ninjas cutting onions around the theater.
After all, who else can claim to have made you feel sad for a volcano? (Also, if you’re reading this after the movie, good luck getting the song out of your head).
Inside Out is a wonderful offering from Pixar, and while too early to be called a classic, I’m pretty willing to bet it’ll be up there with the best of them down the road.
Again, bring tissues.
Inside Out is screening in cinemas around Singapore now.