Pixar hasn’t had the best luck with film critics recently. It’s last three movies Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University were met with mixed reviews and had some wondering if the animation giant had lost it’s edge. Now they’ve given us Inside Out, a film about an 11-year-old’s emotions which is Pixar’s most ambitious project to date. It also has film critics frantically searching Thesaurus for new ways to say “sweet” and “inventive.”
Inside Out is about Riley, a girl who leaves her beloved childhood home and moves with her family to San Francisco. The change is traumatic but the real action takes place inside her head, where Riley’s emotions struggle for control. Her primary feelings are personified as Joy, a feisty girl with a can-do attitude and as Sadness, a sweet but meddling Debbie-Downer. Amy Poehler plays Joy with such exhausting enthusiasm, she MUST had ended each work day with multiple shots of whiskey. Despite her best efforts, Phyllis Smith’s Sadness throws a wrench into Joy’s plans and Riley’s emotional landscape comes crumbling down. The two must learn to work together if Riley is ever going to find an emotional balance. Yes, it’s a pretty broad concept and one I’m not sure kids will grasp.
Riley’s emotional upheaval is also a result of advancing puberty. The underlying story is about childhood and how painful it is to let go. It’s also what had me crying like a great big baby. Joy is so enamored with Riley’s childhood memories, she doesn’t want to let them go and make room for new ones. She is also uncomfortable with the collassal changes she sees in Riley’s brainscape. As the mother of an 11-year-old girl, I get it.
Inside Out affected me on a very personal level because I am also uncomfortable with the changes I see in my daughter and how she’s becoming a young woman at an alarming rate. Pete Docter, who directed Inside Out and other gems like Up and Monsters Inc., is also a parent so he is writing from the heart. I spoke with Pete and Producer Jonas Rivera recently and they discussed their experiences as parents and how it affected the film. Jonas even called the movie a “love letter” to their children.
The interview fell on my daughters’ last day of school so I brought them along with me. When Pete and Jonas found out that they were waiting in the other room, they INSISTED my daughters come join us. The Director and Producer were bummed that the girls hadn’t seen their movie yet, but they went out of their way to make Emma and Lucy feel special. They even drew a picture of Joy for the girls, which had my daughters glowing and giggly for the rest of the day. That is why I’m giving Inside Out a B+. I think this movie will appeal more to grown-ups than kids and I wish it had been funnier. That said, Inside Out comes from a place of pure parental love which will leave most of us weeping openly in our seats. Try not to embarass your kids when that happens. You can buy advance tickets to see Inside Out by clicking HERE.