johnlink ranks INSIDE OUT (2015)

I usually don’t let a Pixar film get too far out in front before I go see it. While I still haven’t gotten around to MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, I was certainly excited to go see the newest animated film from the kings of the genre.


I watched INSIDE OUT (2015) on 7.25.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

Pixar is known for several things, of course. But if you boil their movies down to their core components, the concepts for which they are best regarded would be character development and world building. Their films always have memorable and fun characters, wether they come from the lead roles (see: every film Pixar has ever made) or from unexpected places like the dogs of UP or the fish manning the fishtanks trapping the titular character from FINDING NEMO.

As far as world building goes, it may be enough to say that the effort is extensive enough as to inspire Jon Negroni’s Pixar Theory. But, more specifically, think of the sprawling – yet specific – landscape of the TOY STORY universe or the way space and time are manipulated in MONSTERS INC., or the reality set forth by the dystopian WALL-E.

In these two larger concepts, INSIDE OUT is wildly successful with one, and surprisingly ineffective in the other.

The characters of INSIDE OUT are really solid. This is a film which supposes that humans have emotions working within our brain to control our world, or to react to it at the least. We are introduced to an 11 year old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) and the personified emotions within her head: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black in perhaps the most typecast part of all time), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). In addition we meet Riley’s parents (voiced by Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) and Riley’s former imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind). All of these characters are likable, though Sadness, Anger, and Bing Bong are the ones which will be remembered long after the movie has finished. They are the consistent scene stealers infusing the film with the proper counterpoints to the ever-optimistic Joy (who is a vital character to the film’s success, even if she has a thankless job).

The first act walks through the how and why of human memory storage, emotions, and how we get our personality. Soon, Joy and Sadness are unintentionally sent out into the ‘world’ of Riley’s mind. They are tossed a far distance and have to get back to the tower-like brain. They can always see that goal, but the path there is continuously blocked. Left back to run Riley’s reactions to life are Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Things in Riley’s life get continuously worse not because she is not in control of her emotions, but rather because her emotions are working independently inside of her. That may not be Psychology 101, but it is a clever device for a film.

But the world in her head is not a particularly specific one. Most Pixar films feel like the story is dropped into a pre-exisiting world. INSIDE OUT feels like it exists in a world made for a specific story. That may not be a major determent to enjoyment, but it prevents the film from being in the upper echelon of Pixar films. The storyline which finds Joy and Sadness trying to get back ‘home’ feels forced, especially when we consider how easy it is to eventually get back when the stakes are the highest. The movie manipulates its landscape as it manipulates our emotions.


And INSIDE OUT is sure good at manipulating our emotions. There are several moments that drew tears from me even as I recognized the manipulative force of the film. A character sacrificing himself is the most genuine moment, though several others play to a formula. And maybe that is the worst that you can say about this film: It uses a formula to tell a unique story in a way sure to illicit a certain reaction.

Saying so should not diminish its successes. As mentioned, the characters are great. The human characters, specifically, are fleshed out even if they are less memorable and funny. Further, some of these scenes are really good and a bit about ‘abstract thought’ is a top five Pixar scene of all time. It’s too bad that this movie sometimes feels like a film which didn’t have as much time to develop as it needed, because when it is good, it is really good.

But look, Pixar is the apex of animated films these days. Even their lesser films are must-see ventures. INSIDE OUT is not a bad movie, it isn’t even a mediocre movie. It’s very good. It just could have been better.


NOTE: In an animated film, ‘acting’ considers character development through the animation as well as the voice acting.



FINAL SCORE: 6.75 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on July 27, 2015.

One Response to “johnlink ranks INSIDE OUT (2015)”

  1. Gonna disagree with you here. INSIDE OUT is among my top 5 Pixar movies (along with UP, WALL-E, NEMO & RATATOUILLE). The amount of psychological research that must have went into script development is staggering, and the clever visuals to represent those ideas were top-notch.

    Yes, it’s not as specific a world as other movies, but all those movies more or less exist in versions of the real world–the toys inhabit our kids’ bedrooms, the monsters live in a topsy-turvy pun-filled version of our world, the cars do too. UP & WALL-E bring us to far off places and times, but still familiar enough versions of our world. Though I’ll agree it’s not the most fully realized, it was someplace Pixar (and the audience) had never been.

    And yeah, all the voice work was wonderful.

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