Oh, Pixar! The animation powerhouse has done it again, crafting a bittersweet tale of a young girl dealing with the complicated feelings that come with moving away from home in their newest film, Inside Out. Riley is a happy, active, eleven-year old whose loving parents suddenly move from snowy, hockey-loving Minnesota to bustling, broccoli-eating San Francisco. The five embodiments of Riley’s feelings—Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling)—are thrown into a loop while trying to maintain Riley’s well-being in her new environment by controlling her reactions and helping to protect the core memories that make up Riley’s personality. Unfortunately, Joy and Sadness get accidently thrown out of Headquarters along with Riley’s core memories, leaving Anger, Disgust, and Fear to hold down the fort. Joy, along with some help from Riley’s old imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind)—a candy-floss hybrid of elephant, cat, and dolphin—must navigate back to Headquarters through the maze of Long-Term Memory in order to restore Riley back to her functional self. Without spoiling too much of the film, Inside Out gently reminds viewers about the value of sadness.
The inventive and sometimes punny world (one form of transportation for memories and feelings is the Train of Thought) within Riley is vastly intriguing. Pixar manages to simply and easily explain abstract ideas and theories about the fluidity of memory and personality through expressive colours and collage-like “islands”. The capacity for imagination also allows for fantasy worlds of giant foods and cloud castles to exist and dream production is envisioned as a vast Hollywood studio lot. As complicated as the set-up for the inner workings of Riley, and thusly every human character in the film, may sound, Pixar does a phenomenal job visualizing how feelings, memory, and personality are connected to and influence each other. Creation, storage, retrieval, and loss of memory play important roles in the film and the on-screen mechanics are built around the importance of memory. However, none of this world-building detracts from the heart and soul of the movie, which is watching Riley, and also Joy, learn and grow in their new surroundings.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 song-powered rocket ships