Inside Out (Review)

Directed by Pete Docter, U.S. 2015

“Emotion is the chief source of all becoming-conscious. There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.”

– Carl Jung, 1938

Inside Out should be shown on the first day of every Psychology 101 class in America.  An overstatement?  Maybe, but a personal one.  I took an introductory course to psychology when I was in college and found it about as interesting as watching baseball must be to people unfamiliar with the rules.  Inside Out takes this dry, yet important, social science and gives it a jolt of color and personality.

The color is the incomparable artwork of the animators at Pixar.  Liberated from sequeldom for the first time since 2009’s “Up,” the desk-lamp team has created a masterpiece of cinematic art.  The personality is the five “emotion” characters based on five of the six primal human reactions to stimuli: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) (Surprise and Fear get merged together).

Our five main characters live in a “command center” inside the head of Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), who for the majority of our story is an eleven year old girl.  The heart of the story is the emotions managing a crisis, rather, what is a crisis for an eleven year old girl.  Riley’s family, you see, has moved from Minnesota to San Francisco.

The crisis is exacerbated by Joy’s repression of Sadness, which causes them both to be separated from the other three emotions.  Needless to say when Anger, Fear, and Disgust are Riley’s only reactions to outside stimuli things do not go well for her.  Meanwhile, Joy and Sadness have to navigate the labyrinth of Riley’s memory and subconscious to return to the command center to save her.

That was a complicated explanation of the basic plot.  Fortunately, the movie is a lot more straightforward and intuitively structured than all of that.  If you haven’t already, go check it out and you’ll see what I mean.

You might like Inside Out if: Pixar’s best movies give you joy, make you cry, and give you the occasional scare.

You might not like Inside Out if: Pixar’s best movies make you disgusted and angry, in which case, you might want to re-watch them without the magic mushrooms.

(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe