Outsized Insights: A Review of Inside Out

Oscar LuckettSeptember 5, 2016HappinessMedia

Procrastination drawls lethargically, “Just do it tomorrow! There will be plenty of time.”

“Did I see someone giving away free ice cream over there?” says Distraction, high fiving Procrastination

“Come on, people! If we focus, we can finish this thing in under 30 seconds,” urges Confidence.

“What if we put that body paragraph there and change that period to an exclamation point?!” yells Creativity, spontaneously dying down after crashing into Writer’s Block.

“Alright, settle down everybody,” says Focus, the occasional leader of the medley. “Let’s think.” These are the personified voices in my head as I write this review. They talk with each other and negotiate terms and agreements to end up with a finished product.

In the animated Disney Pixar movie Inside Out, similar characters engage with each other in the mind of a young girl. Five main emotions control her reactions: Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). The story line follows the life of Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), an eleven-year-old girl who loves hockey and her family. In Minnesota, Riley plays on her hockey team, has fun with her parents, and goes on adventures with her imaginary friend, Bing Bong, who is a mix between an elephant, a raccoon, a dolphin, and cotton candy. Minnesota is her home. It’s where all her most important and happy memories, or “core memories,” are formed.

Suddenly, crisis hits when Riley moves to San Francisco. She loses all her friends, her close relationship with her family is strained, and her sense of home is shaken.

The movie portrays how Riley’s emotions attempt to adjust to a new life in a dark and scary house, with a father who is preoccupied with work and pizza available only with broccoli (her least favorite topping). Inside Out turns an adult topic — situational depression in children — into a movie for a younger audience.

The movie skillfully simplifies complex concepts such as Riley’s mind, characterizing different ideas as physical things that interact in something resembling a giant pinball machine. A few other examples include the train of thought portrayed as a literal train, and the dreams mind workers shoot every night as if they were shooting a movie, with familiar themes such as “Something’s Chasing Me” or “I Can Fly.” One crowd favorite mentioned before is Bing Bong, Riley’s forgotten imaginary friend, who cries candy and rides in a rainbow wagon. By characterizing things such as memories and dreams as events involving many real participants, the movie seeks to act out and explain what is happening in a little girl’s mind.

Each voice actor is chosen perfectly to play his or her character. Many have been cast based on previous roles. For example, Lewis Black, a standup comedian who plays Anger, is known for his aggressive rants. Amy Poehler, an actor and writer who plays Joy, is known for being funny and happy, like in her role as Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation. Phyllis Smith, Sadness, played a depressive character, also named Phyllis, for many seasons on The Office. Typecasting the actors makes the characters they represent even more believable because of the audience’s association with their work. The actors’ voices tap into our memories of roles they have played in the past, reinforcing their emotional personas.

Each cartoon representation of the different emotions is also drawn to look the part. Sadness wears a turtleneck and glasses and is blue. Disgust has long eyelashes and is always rolling her eyes. Anger has a square red head that erupts occasionally. The film’s writer and director, Pete Docter, comments “if we did our jobs right, we could really represent these emotions for people.”

One might think before watching the movie that emotions are constantly battling each other to gain control of the brain. However, Inside Out imparts to the audience the idea that a person matures when the emotions are working together. At the beginning of the movie, Joy would rather Sadness stay within the confines of a chalk circle. Yet as the adventure in Riley’s mind unfolds, Joy discovers that all emotions are necessary to maintaining a balanced life. Some people’s main objective is to remain happy all the time, but without the true array and palette of emotions no one can live a vibrant and fulfilling life. I know this summer’s issue is on happiness, but sadness is arguably one of the most important emotions, both in reality and in Inside Out.

I think this is an excellent film. The animation was terrific, the voice acting was great, and the plot was inventive. However, subjectively, the movie did not personally speak to me. Inside Out relies on overused, manipulative plotlines, such as those portraying childhood and optimism as fleeting, to coerce the audience into feeling sadness when they intended to see a happy, uplifting movie. As a result, the film is quite emotional. It didn’t seem intended for kids my age, or as I suspect, other members of “the eye roll demographic.” Recognizing that the movie is original and entertaining, I give it three and a half stars out of five. I would recommend it to younger audiences and their parents for its easy-to-follow narrative and story line chock-full of ethics.

Overall, Inside Out lives up to the Pixar standard of brilliantly giving life to the inanimate.

Oscar Luckett is a rising eighth grader at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York. He enjoys any kind of math, jazz, board games, and running.