Pixar have been, in recent years, really pushing the boundaries for what constitutes an animated family movie. WALL-E was, arguably, their first step away from safer fare, but they’ve also managed to create great movies based around a rat (Ratatouille), an elderly curmudgeon (Up), a tough Highland princess (Brave – admittedly, not their most radical central character, but interestingly done), and they traumatised everyone at various times with moments of extreme terror/tension in the development of the Toy Story trilogy. And now we have the stars of Inside Out – Joy (amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader) and Anger (Lewis Black). Yes, this film focuses on the entities living inside a young girl, depicting what is happening inside her mind as we also see what is happening to her in the outside world. Hence the name. And if you used to love The Numbskulls (an old comic strip, look it up) as much as I did then you’re guaranteed to have some fun here.
The main characters are cute, the premise is great, so why am I starting by reminding people of the way that Pixar has moved away from what you might expect from a movie aimed at kids? Well, that’s because there are quite a few laughs here, even if many of them are older gags you and your kids may already be familiar with, there are also quite a few concepts that will go over the heads of younger children. Not that it matters, because they’re usually only a scene away from seeing something that they will be able to connect with, and even the more complex ideas will prove to be great discussion points for the family long after the film has finished.
While the exterior story shows a young girl struggling to adjust after she and her parents move from Minnesota to San Francisco, the interior journey takes in such delights as core memories, a literal train of thought, the ways in which personality is structured from solid past experiences, a lesson in how abstract concepts are dealt with, the dark recesses of the subconscious, the dream studio, and a fair bit more. This is a film packed with more thought-provoking ideas and sequences than any other child-friendly movie that I can think of. AND it keeps the laughs coming, in between one or two scenes that may well have viewers complaining of something in their eyes. And we all know that those somethings will be tears.
When it comes to the technical side of things, Pixar are as faultless as ever. The voice cast is perfect (seriously, Amy Poehler is Joy – that’s only the role that she’s been building up to over the past decade or so anyway), the animation is gorgeous, the script and pacing walk a thin line between joy and sadness, fittingly enough, and the end result is another winner. I haven’t seen a bad Pixar movie yet, although I should note that I have been purposefully avoiding Cars and Cars 2 for a long time now, but this is a real return to their top-tier work. And the scenes just before the main end credit scroll will guarantee that everyone leaves with a laugh still on their lips.
Also worth noting, the short film preceding Inside Out is an enjoyable little tale entitled Lava. It’s lush and sweet, but I think it’s one of the worst of their short films (which had me worried for the main event). Kids will enjoy it a lot more, and I must stress that I didn’t hate it or anything, but I just felt that it was lacking some of the brilliance of their previous mini-masterpieces.
Inside Out screens at EIFF 2015 on 21st June.
DIRECTOR: PETE DOCTER, RONALDO DEL CARMEN
WRITER: MEG LEFAUVE, JOSH COOLEY, PETE DOCTER
STARS: AMY POEHLER, PHYLLIS SMITH, RICHARD KIND, BILL HADER, LEWIS BLACK, MINDY KALING
RUNTIME: 94 MINS APPROX