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Inside Out (2015) Review

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I was pretty geared up for the new Pixar film, Inside Out, but didn’t quite have anything near a level of what you would call excitement for it. I was ready for a typically fun time with the usually dependant Pixar, who, despite some lesser calibre films over the past five years, have continued to produce decent, entertaining movies.

Well damn. They did it again. I would point to films like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Wall-E and Toy Story 3 as some of the greatest animated films of all time. The rest of Pixar’s output is also mostly incredible too. In recent years, it seems like they’ve been leaning on sequels (and a prequel) to propel the studio forward, yet once again, they show how much they can hit it out of the park with an original story.

Inside Out follows five emotions inside the head of an eleven year old girl, Riley. Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger are all colourfully represented, both in their brilliant character design, and their voices, provided by a stellar cast including Bill Hader and Amy Poehler. I could begin to describe to you how the inside of Riley’s mind works, how the five emotions all play their part in keeping her brain running in a way that we would all consider “normal”, but I won’t. You just need to see this film, if you haven’t, and marvel at all the ingenuity on display in how it all ticks.

All the little things add up in a big way here, a seemingly endless amount of genius moments, whether it’s an offhand explanation of why songs get stuck in our head, or it’s a much grander idea of how our emotions are integral to who we are, and our personality. Kids can watch this and enjoy the fun characters, the wild adventure that Joy and Sadness go on throughout Riley’s mind, lost outside of the “HQ” of her brain. Adults can watch this, and if they’re still in touch with their inner child, can enjoy that element too, whilst also connecting to the very deep themes that make this film so special.

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The thing with Inside Out is, all of the ideas presented within it, are complete strokes of brilliance, but they aren’t overly clever. Anyone could come up with some of the concepts, such as a literal Train of Thought driving around, or a cave that houses your subconscious fears. They’re simple ideas, but the genius comes from the simplicity, in my opinion. Pixar always seem to excel at bringing real emotion out of their audience, and this one may be the most effective at that. It’s one thing to make us feel sad at seeing a young girl crying in embarassment, but to make us feel heartbroken over a goofy, outlandish character, is a masterstroke.

By now, two decades on from when Pixar created the first feature length CGI film, the studio clearly has a handle on making these films look better and better. This is no exception, and it looks stunning. Then there’s the outstanding score which heightens the emotions, from the fun, to the sad. It just ticks every box, the story is great, the characters are relatable, and the not so original idea of little people inside someone’s head, essentially running things, is executed to perfection. Then there’s the humour. This film is funny. Like, really funny.

I haven’t sat in a cinema and actually laughed out loud this much for years. Once again, it was in the simplest of touches, that my funny bone was repeatedly tickled. There’s humour for kids and adults alike, in the whacky moments for the young at heart, and the subtle jokes for the rest of us. My favourite joke that probably flew over children’s heads was when a box containing facts on the Train of Thought was disturbed. The little cards that visualise the facts were mixed in with cards for opinions. Joy despairs that the facts and opinions are now all mixed up, before another character replies “it happens all the time.”

The most important part of Inside Out, the element that puts it from being simply a great film, to being a masterpiece, is the way it deals with sadness, even perhaps depression. Not since Miyazaki’s dealing of that terrible feeling of being down, have I seen it handled so delicately, and honestly. The overriding sentiment is that it’s ok to be sad, and that it is a part of who we are as people. We don’t always have to be happy, and no one should feel like they have to be all the time. Your emotions define you, and your personality, so don’t bottle them up. See? It sounds cheesy when written in three simple sentences, but Inside Out never spells this out.

That message is told, in a beautiful scene at the end of the film (and indeed, throughout the entire film as well), where inside Riley’s head, the usually motormouth emotions, are all in silence. It harked back to the great silent films, where only music and images were relied on to convey the story. You could have the parents of Riley tell her that she shouldn’t be afraid to be sad, but it’s all the more powerful when you’re just shown that message. Pixar doesn’t try to cater for the lowest common denominator, and expects their audience to be smart enough to figure it out for themselves. I admire that, and it’s one of the reasons they make such great films.

Hilarious, gorgeous, gut-wrenchingly touching, and a true original. I held back tears of sadness, and of joy, literally, seriously, without any pretence. My favourite film of the year so far, and easily one of the best animated films of the past 25 years.

★★★★★

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