Pixar's 'Inside Out' is an emotional gem

Judged on it’s own merits, Inside Out is an interesting film that hits more than enough beats to be considered a quality children’s film. 

It presents a fascinating scenario of our mind being controlled by extreme emotions like joy, anger and sadness. Its early set-ups are brilliant and do a perfect job explaining the world of a person’s mind and the main conflict of the film. It’s unfortunate that such a wonderful premise and truly affecting moments are saddled with a final product that’s missing that final touch. It ends up feeling more like a kid’s film than a Pixar film, and that’s just sad.

I never thought it was possible to cry at a film, and then feel completely empty afterwards, but somehow Inside Out did just that. The movie is comprised of many winning characters and situations that will make you react with your own extreme emotion, but the quality effort can only do so much with a plot is just not that compelling.

In the film, the emotions Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear all live inside of a girl named Riley; just as Riley is starting a new life with her family in San Francisco, Joy and Sadness are sucked out into the outskirts of Riley’s head. 

The idea of what happens next is a lot more interesting than what the film actually does with it. To be fair, there are some clever moments of Disgust or Fear taking over and trying to be Joy, and there is a particularly moving story line with an imaginary friend named Bing Bong that made me cry. But these moments don’t add up because the central actions of Joy and Sadness running from area to area and watching things be destroyed are boring and kill the film’s momentum. As a result, you’re left with a film that has great individual scenes, but they certainly don’t gel. In fact, at moments they feel as downright emotional as a teenage girl, and that’s not a good thing even if your film is about a teenage girl.

The film also gets unexpectedly sloppy toward the end, with no real explanation of Sadness’s powers. I won’t spoil it, except to say that why is it that Sadness has the powers that the other four emotions do not have. The film basically glosses over what Sadness can do after briefly addressing it, and as a result we never really understand what Sadness can do. In addition, I don’t consider a girl crying to be a climax when she’s already done it several times in the film.

The film does a good job of portraying the emotional struggles of many young people, and the voice actors all nail their roles; in particular Phyllis Smith has the greatest task of becoming a sad character in a summer movie, and Lewis Black is perfectly cast as the living embodiment of anger. Some of the best moments in the film come when we look inside the heads of the parents; it’s classic Pixar in the sense that it’s appealing to everyone of all ages, as well as funny.

But you may view that as my disgust turning on and nitpicking, because there’s no way to claim that Inside Out is a bad film. The direction is too good, the humor works, the emotional moments are suitably emotional, and there are lot of good ideas here that add up to a respectable product, and certainly better than Pixar’s more recent output. 

It’s just a shame that a movie about your mind didn’t use it to make that one scene that would really pull at your heartstrings. A telling moment of the film’s potential comes in the end credits, where we see inside the heads of multiple living things; perhaps the filmmakers should have thought about that concept more.

Reach the reporter at jagger.czajka@asu.edu or follow @JaggerCzajka on Twitter.

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