Monday, June 22, 2015

Inside Out

Short version: This movie easily lives up to the Pixar standard. It is a fairly obvious and standard plot, but executed with grace and style that gives it fresh appeal. The characters are wonderfully sketched out, especially considering that they are intentionally one-dimensional. And, yes, you will cry. If you don't, you're a monster.

Go see it. Now.

The plot is not entirely obvious from the trailers. And that's partially because it's hard to describe the plot without going deep into spoiler territory. But I'll give it a shot.

Riley Anderson is a fairly typical, happy, 11-year-old girl. We can tell this because we can take a peek inside her head, and watch the five core emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger) taking turns reacting to her world. Joy is in control. Until Riley's family leaves her beloved Minnesota for dreaded San Francisco. Then Sadness starts inexplicably taking control and turning happy memories to sad ones. Joy freaks out, and causes a bit of a mess. And when Riley's emotions are in a mess, her life goes a bit off the rails. Can Joy fix Riley before her personality comes completely apart at the seams?

While that sounds like a recipe for Jim Carrey style wackiness, Pixar is better than that. Riley's reactions actually make sense for someone going through a stressful situation. No one on the outside (except for her parents, who are going through their own turmoil) is even particularly surprised at the way she lashes out or breaks down. But it's wonderfully paired with actions inside her head, to make for a satisfying narrative.

And the narrative is satisfying. Because it's not just about stress and emotions going out of control. It's about what emotions mean and what their purpose is. Why do we even have Sadness, anyway? And what happens to our internal landscape as we learn and grow? Why do different people have different personalities? (One of my favorite bits is that when you look inside other people's heads, their emotions are arrayed differently, indicating a different set of priorities. Also little touches like the fact that the emotions of an adult are seated in chairs, indicating that they are more settled.)

In fact, there are lots of neat psychology touches. Keep an eye out for the deja vu joke. I'm not sure how much of it is real psychology and how much is psycho-babble, but it squares with my memories of Psych 101. (My psych major wife said that it was simplistic, had lots of issues, but was a reasonable effort for a kids movie.) The life cycle of memories was pretty cool (the gum commercial is SO TRUE!). Keep an eye out for the deja vu joke.

In true Pixar style, this movie will make you cry. I've already seen it twice, and cried both times at the big climax. But it's good crying. It's catharsis. Why was there no catharsis joke? That should have been in there.

My recommendation, obviously, is go see it. It is not my favorite Pixar movie (that's still The Incredibles), but it's better than Cars or Toy Story 2. I might put it above Toy Story and Toy Story 3. (Yeah, somebody challenged me to rate the 15 Pixar movies from best to worst, so I've been thinking about it.) The story is good, the setting is good, the acting is good, the animation is good. (As a note, it doesn't really have any music, unless you count the Bing Bong Song. Which is good, because the music from Up and the song from Toy Story 2 can make me cry just hearing them.)

As an aside, the short before it, called Lava, is also pretty cute. Even if it's mostly an excuse for some terrible word play.

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