Movie review: ‘Inside Out’ |

Movie review: ‘Inside Out’

The character Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, appears in a scene from "Inside Out."
AP | Disney-Pixar



Directed by Pete Docter

Voices of: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Richard Kindm Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan

Rated PG, Family, Animated, 102 minutes

Pixar’s latest film, “Inside Out,” takes on the workings of the mind through Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias), an 11 year old whose idyllic life is interrupted when her family moves from Minnesota to the West Coast.

The fetching premise, from the mind of co-writer/director Pete Docter, imagines each of our emotions (joy, sadness, fear, anger and disgust) collected together in the mental headquarters of our brains, visualized as a bubble atop a high, thin spire. In order to control our lives, the emotions direct our actions by sending the right messages, or memories, via a video game-like console featuring an array of buttons and levers. The emotions observe the results of their meddling by way of the person’s viewpoint, projected onto a large, high-definition screen.

As the only child of loving parents whom treasure her happy attitude, Riley’s life is virtually trouble-free thanks to Joy’s (voice of Amy Poehler) constant infusion of happy memories for “our girl.” Joy’s expertise in creating happiness produces an onslaught of swirly, glowing golden balls that roll down a bowling ball ramp for sorting and storage as core, short- or long-term memories.

After Riley’s family moves to San Francisco, Sadness; a chubby, blue, short lady voiced in Phyllis Smith’s melancholy timber; is so affected that she begins touching happy “golden ball” memories, transforming them into blue memories that now make Riley sad.

Racing to protect the sanctity of Riley’s happy remembrances, Joy inadvertently sends herself, Sadness and Riley’s core memories into a suction tube that ferries Riley’s memories to winding banks of storage shelves situated far from brain central.

With no safe or simple route back, Joy searches for a means to cross a deep abyss that separates herself and Sadness from headquarters. Meanwhile, shorn of the happy memories that Joy took with her and are no longer accessible to Riley, the little girl is now controlled by Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).

Much imagination is poured into Joy’s attempts to reach Riley, including her efforts to drag Sadness along in order to tap into the knowledge Sadness derived from reading the brain’s manuals. Along the way they climb aboard Riley’s “Train of Thought,” revisit her imaginary childhood friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind), encounter the dangers of being caught up by security guards or clean-up crews patrolling Riley’s brain and even run into Riley’s worst nightmare. These imaginative sights aside, Joy’s unrelenting optimism is wearisome.

While better than most children’s fare, the difficulty presented by “Inside Out” arises from the concept that outside information exerts little influence over our actions. While it’s true we are emotional creatures, the film’s insistence that our ultimate choices are emotionally driven is frightening. I’d hoped that, during Joy’s absence, new information would influence Riley’s decisions, but that reality does not exist for “Inside Out,” and that made feel afraid — very afraid.

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