Starring: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black
11 year old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is forced to move to San Francisco with her parents, and in doing so this leads to conflict between her five emotions; Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness, all figures that control her actions from inside the headquarters of her mind.
After several misfiring sequels it is most certainly refreshing to see Pixar producing an original film again, and though Inside Out does have its fair share of Pixar heart and humour, there is just not enough of either to make it anywhere near up there with the studio’s best. Maybe it is because of the incredibly high standards they have set themselves in the past, but though it has a great concept and contains inside its narrative some very emotive and relatable themes and ideas, Inside Out just feels like a missed opportunity. This may well indeed be why it has taken me so long to bother writing a review of it, despite seeing it the week it was released at the cinema it has been hard to make the effort to say that much about it at all.
There are most certainly some great ideas here in terms of the narrative’s unique depictions of how our individual personality and experiences are determined by our memories and emotions. They are perhaps a little naive and simplistic, but still effective and prove a very solid foundation for the narrative to explore its themes and ideas. Core memories that shape our personality, and childhood memories that just simply disintegrate as we get older (represented in this case by giant physical, but easy to destabilise islands and millions of marbles) are depicted effectively.
Of course concept alone is not enough, as for a feature length narrative there is something needed that will happen and test this initial concept, and Riley moving to a completely new city allows the narrative to explore some very emotive themes very effectively.
Riley is then forced to find a new life, make new friends and deal with what seems to be enforced poverty on her family. These are all relatable narrative tropes, but yet the film does not delve as deep as perhaps it could have done.
Once the big move has happened and taken place the main narrative of Joy and Sadness getting lost in Riley’s head then takes place. There is no getting away from the fact this feels extremely forced and obvious as to how to get this concept to become a feature length narrative, despite the fact there are some great ideas and concepts in there. Once they get lost and explore Riley’s mind it does feel like a massive congratulatory pat-on-the-back from the makers of the film as this slightly episodic sequence shows that they are all obviously very pleased with the concept they have thought of, and as admirable as the originality may be, they really could have done more with it.
By far the best idea and most memorable character of the film is Riley’s imaginary friend as a child, Bing-Bong (voiced by Richard Kind) who provides the most emotional moments of the film. Unfortunately this bit-part character is the most memorable of all the characters in the film, and this plays a part as to why Inside Out is one of the least memorable of the Pixar Films.
The film’s five main characters are just not memorable at all. In fact, due to highly repetitive nature of the script, are all are just bland or annoying, with the exception of Lewis Black’s anger. Meanwhile Riley, who is technically the film’s protagonist is also very forgettable.
Ultimately, Inside Out has to go down as a missed opportunity for Pixar which is a shame considering the great initial concept. There are some great individual moments of heart and comedy (the mid-credit sequence is a particular hoot), but compared to the studio’s high standard of style and substance, Inside Out has to be classed as a very average effort.
Great concept, but poor execution; Inside Out could well have been up there with Pixar’s best if the superb initial concept was truly utilised. It still has some great moments, but thanks to forgettable characters and a generic narrative these are very far and few between.