A Review by Kevin Powers
Truth. I teach 12-14 year olds, so I know a few things.
Truth. I don't have kids of my own.
Truth. Pete Docter's new gem from Disney/Pixar, Inside Out, is now at the top of my list of the best of 2015...so far.
How is that possible?
Well, the answer to that question is as simple as this movie is easily complex: It is 100% universal. It is about all of us.
I suppose that's Pixar's M.O., right? They seem to want to create worlds containing something for everyone, and they succeed more often than not. As a guy who doesn't LOVE animated movies, in general, it has been Pixar that has been able to break through to me. Inside Out is of the three or four best Pixar movies (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille are the other ones up there for me).
As for Inside Out: A little girl named Riley (voiced as an 11-year-old by Kaitlyn Dias) is born to a loving Mom (Diane Lane) and Dad (Kyle MacLachlan) in Minnesota. At the time of her birth, a few other people are born...inside her head. They are her emotions. Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), and Anger (Lewis Black). Throughout Inside Out, two stories are told: one of the life and memories of a pre-teen girl, and one of the emotions, especially Joy and Sadness, who love her so much.
To recap the plot of this movie would do both me and you, reader, a full disservice. Plus, it's impossible. The basics are that, when Riley's Dad gets a new job, the family has to move to San Francisco. This, of course, is the worst thing that could ever happen to a sweet, well-liked 5th grader. It is the worst time for a kid to ever have to change schools and friends and activities and geographies. The whole thing puts every kid who's ever done it in an emotional tailspin. That's where this movie comes in.
The whole thing takes place, for the most part, in an imaginary world inside Riley's brain. This world is the most amazing imaginary world in recent movie history. We all have this world inside us. And this is what makes this a perfect movie, probably not for little kids, but for kids of a certain age with a little self-awareness and adults of all ages.
Riley's move to the new city, home, school, puts Joy (her fearless leader to this point in her life) at a loss. Fear and Sadness and Anger and Disgust are finally coming into play more than they ever have. Of course, isn't that how it works? We get older and we just lose track of the Joy. When you're an adult, your emotions have to work together more closely in order to cope with the world.
The move is the catalyst for all the upheaval. In a series of perfectly orchestrated scenes, specifically the best dinner table scene maybe ever, the emotions up there in the Headquarters can't seem to get on the same page, which leads to a bit of a scuffle, sending Joy and Sadness out into the realms of Riley's brain, including Long-Term Memory and Dream Productions and other such clever lands, where they must work together to restore Riley's Core Memories and save her crumbling Personality Islands. So clever!
Some of the Truths of this movie are so true that you can't fathom how someone was able to tap into them. Pete Docter has that gift. He has the gift of being able to create universally emotional narratives within narratives to the point where you, as the audience, don't even know what hit you. With 2009's Up, he put an entire life on the screen in the first 15 minutes (I have never cried more at a movie), then told the rest of the story. With Inside Out, he joins the ranks of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) as a person who truly grasps what it is to be human, to have memories and personality and emotions and to understand how these work on a deeper level.
Amy Poehler as the brightly-lit, blue-haired Joy gives an Awards-worthy performance. She is now up there with the Pixar greats Woody, Dory, Mr. Incredible, and Remy. Likewise, all the emotions are perfectly cast. Phyllis Smith brings her "The Office" character to new realms here as the yang to Joy's yin. She is superb here. And, I mean, Anger and Lewis Black are a match made in Heaven.
What makes a pre-teen girl tick? What makes us all tick? Both of these questions are answered here. And they are answered thoroughly and happily and with humor and wit and goodness to the point of tears.
Truth. I laughed during this movie...a lot.
Truth. I cried during this movie more than once. In fact, there were a couple moments where happy tears nearly threw me out of my seat and onto my feet.
Truth. Movies like this one don't come along very often.
It's like the truth I told my beautiful wife as we were walking to the car, both of our faces and shirt sleeves smeared with tears, "Movie's don't get this perfect."