Written by guest contributor Dave Fox
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be counting down my top 5 films of 2015. Here’s #3, a brilliant animated offering from Pixar.
There was a joke doing the rounds online after the first trailer for Pixar's Inside Out dropped. It described the film as the culmination of Pixar's ongoing quest to ask the question "what if [x] had feelings?". It began with "what if toys had feelings?" (Toy Story) through to bugs (A Bug's Life), monsters (Monsters, Inc), fish (Finding Nemo), cars (Cars), rodents (Ratatouille), and robots (WALL-E). Finally, with Inside Out, Pixar had reached the end of the line by asking - what if feelings had feelings?
Thankfully, there's much more going on in Inside Out than that glib joke would suggest. Directed by Pixar favourite Pete Docter, who was also responsible for the poignant-yet-hilarious Up (2009), it's Pixar's greatest achievement to date thanks to a smart script, brilliant performances and visuals as sumptuous as you would expect from Pixar.
Inside Out ostensibly follows the trials and tribulations of an 11-year-old girl Riley (Kaitlin Dias) as she is uprooted from her happy Midwest life and moved to San Francisco along with her parents. But Inside Out’s real story centres around the emotions that inhabit her brain: Joy ( an impossibly perky Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mandy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyliss Smith). As Riley tries - and fails - to adjust to a new city, a new house, and a new school, negative emotions begin to take hold and when an accident sees Joy and Sadness ejected from the "control room" inside Riley's brain, the odd couple must work together to get back in control before they lose Riley for good.
When I first read about Inside Out's premise I was worried that something as complex as a child's emotional development was being over simplified. The five emotions featured just didn't seem like enough. In practice, though, it works perfectly. Having too many emotions would clutter up the screen and the script, Inside Out manages the tricky feat of streamlining the emotions without dumbing everything down - and make no mistake, this is an intelligent film. It means that unlike some recent Pixar efforts, this really isn't one for small children, it genuinely feels like an adult film. If there's anyone left who doesn't take animation seriously as an art form, they should check out Inside Out and see if it makes them think again.
In the end, Inside Out is a poignant treatise on the importance of sadness, and other negative emotions, in life. Joy realises that she would not exist but for the much-maligned Sadness, and it's a realisation that's the beating heart of the film. In lesser hands this film would come across as corny, cloying and melodramatic. In Pixar's hands it's so much more - their best film yet, and deservedly in contention at the Oscars.
Inside Out Director: Pete Docter Writers: Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen, Meg LeFauve & Josh Cooley Studio: Pixar Animation Studios Running Time: 95 Minutes Release Date: 6/19/15