Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Inside Out’ Review: Starring Amy Poehler, Bill Hader & Mindy Kaling

The world of Disney Pixar has brought us glorious short and feature length films including the classic Toy Story trilogy, the sweet and touching Finding Nemo, my personal favorite WALL-E, the memorable UP and the adorable prequel Monsters University. Very much like Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar has a wonderful quality of making films that appeal to both children and adults. There’s always dialogue that adults are going to pick up on more than kids and always jokes that kids are going to laugh at more than adults. Pixar’s newest feat Inside Out may not quite be as impressive as it wants to be or as memorable as the films listed above, but it is far better than 2012’s Brave and certainly more so than 2011’s Cars 2.

When 11-year-old Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) has to move from her comfortable and happy life in Minnesota to San Francisco when her father gets a new job, she goes through a range of emotions in order to adjust to her new school and city. The emotions inside Riley’s head all do their part, but Joy (Amy Poehler) is in charge and does what she thinks is best when running Riley’s life. There’s also Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black), who occasionally plays their parts in Riley’s everyday life.

But with all the changes happening in Riley’s life and her desperately missing her hometown, friends and hockey team, she downfalls into an emotionless spiral when Joy and Sadness accidentally fall out of headquarters into the abyss of long lost memories.

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Inside Out attempts to touch on every major emotion and it succeeds with Joy and Sadness, but it seems like the characters Disgust, Fear and Anger are left in the background. It really would have been better if those characters had more screen time to serve a more lasting impression. Joy and Sadness are easily our lead characters and Poehler and Smith are excellent in capturing their personalities. Although I enjoyed watching Joy and Sadness, it would have been nice to know a little more about Riley herself. Her character and her parents come off a bit one note at times.

When it comes to emotions, the film makes it seem like emotions can be switched on or off by the touch of a button, when in reality emotions are much more complicated than that. The story doesn’t ring as raw and true as it should. I know this is a Pixar animated film, but in their other films the stories tend to ring as real as possible. In The Incredibles, though the family is all superheroes, it rings true to family life and even in WALL-E, though our lead characters are robots, it rings true to love and loss.

But with all that being said, there is a lot to love about Inside Out. The animation is gorgeous, the voice performances are lovely and there are several moments that are hilarious. There’s also Bing Bong (voiced by Richard Kind), Riley’s imaginary friend that is a mix of an elephant, a dolphin and cotton candy. Bing Bong is such a surprising and joyful supporting character and the middle section of the film heavily relies on him to drive the story and comedic timing. Without giving anything away, the best scene in the film involves Bing Bong and Joy, it’s amazing.

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Inside Out is colorful and vibrant, like any animated movie should be, but the 3D is completely useless here and only dims the picture. In fact, this is the type of movie that will probably look absolutely stellar on Blu-ray and I’m interested to see it again in full HD.

Inside Out benefits from gorgeous animation, enthusiastic voice performances from Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith and does have a sweet message in conclusion. The problem lies in that middle act that was overlong and repetitive, therefore disconnecting the viewer from the main message and theme of the movie.

Note: The Pixar short film titled “Lava,” plays right before Inside Out starts. It’s absolutely lovely, wonderful, sweet and touching. 5/5 stars for “Lava.”

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