Well, just when you thought Pixar couldn’t get any better, they excel themselves again, constantly raising the bar of animation only to breezily leap over it. Premiering in Cannes to rapturous applause, is Pete Docter’s superlative Inside Out.
The film takes place inside the head of eleven-year-old Riley. In her brain is a Star Trek-type control centre run by her emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). These emotions have been taking it in turns to guide her through her early years, and everything has been going pretty swingingly, with joyful memories far outweighing any others being stored away, some forever and some with a limited shelf life.
The brain is brilliantly rendered with its vast computer storage space, an imagination world, a dream area that is like a Hollywood backlot, and islands linked to the nerve centre that represent key elements of Riley’s life: family, friendships, honesty and so on. When the family leave Minnesota and embark on a new life in San Francisco, things start going wrong in Riley’s head and Joy embarks on a mission to reinstate happiness in her life.
The voice talent is fabulous with Poehler always chirpy but never saccharine. Kaling sounds like a grossed-out teen and Hader represents all tensed anxiety. Smith is just wonderful as Sadness, all blue melancholy, conveying the apathy and ennui that often go hand-in-hand with this emotion. And this is the important message of the film, which is that joy and sadness also often go hand-in-hand, that all of our emotions need to have an outlet and that sometimes a balance is hard to find.
There are so many hilarious moments, but particular stand outs are when we also enter the parents’ minds (mum voiced by Diane Lane and dad by Kyle MacLachlan) and get to see their own control-centre emotions at work. And of course we get some treats when the final credits roll.
Yet it is not laughs all the way. Riley’s dreams and demons are seen and we also enter the subconscious and see how abstract thoughts are formed. We meet Riley’s invisible friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind), long-forgotten, who bravely tries to rescue Riley’s emotions and memories. Inside Out shows how we lay the early foundations in preparation for life. It is delightful and insightful, bravely taking on difficult concepts that will encourage children to think about how we think. It will blow your mind.