Inside Out

Early adolescence is a crucial time in the development of a child’s personality. It is a time of change and uncertainty when conflicting emotions rage inside the mind. The young person wants more independence and yet still craves the loving and secure parent-built cocoon that is all she has ever known. I suppose that all life changes have that dual nature of looking backward with nostalgia and forward with dread and excitement. But the results of the conflict between emotions in this particular period seem to have a permanent effect on the individual. It is one of life’s most vital transitions.
Okay, that’s a pretty heavy intro for a review of a cartoon, but I think this is what Inside Out is dealing with. The filmmakers are illustrating this internal conflict by personifying those emotions as they struggle to find their roles in the mind of one young girl. Riley voiced by Kaitlyn Dias, moves to San Francisco with her parents voiced by Kyle MacLachlan and Diane Lane. Coming from the Midwest, Riley is very much intimidated by the change in lifestyle and culture that she faces in a major city. Her internal emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), are in turmoil. Up until now Joy has been Riley’s dominant emotion, but with the changes in her life, both from the move and from growing up, Joy’s decisions are not working as well as they used to. What’s more, Sadness is beginning to assert herself, although in a very passive aggressive way. None of the emotions seem to think that’s a good thing.
Inside Out is directed by Pete Doctor and Ronaldo Del Carmen. They also get “Story by” credits. This is Del Carmen’s first time directing a feature, after a career of laboring in the art departments for Pixar and other animation companies. Pete Doctor, however, is one of Pixar’s old hands. He directed Up, Monsters Inc., the first Toy Story and Wall-E, all first rate productions. And this time he has come up with another classic. Inside Out is a very inventive and touching story. Like the best of Pixar it goes for the emotions without becoming maudlin.
This may seem like an odd comment, but it is also very realistic. The bickering emotions who are learning how to work together through this new change, accurately reflect what goes on in a young person’s mind as she figures how she feels and how she should react. Also the crisis comes when Riley is about to make a very serious mistake. They pull no punches here.
Of course the technical elements are perfect as they always are even when Pixar stumbles. The film is pretty and well designed. The animation is flawless and inventive. They cast the parts well. Who else is going to play Anger other than Lewis Black? Richard Kind who plays Bing Bong, an old imaginary friend, deserves special mention.
I’m not a psychologist, so I have no idea how closely Inside Out reflects modern thinking about the development of adolescent minds, but it feels right. It is certainly touching and will remind you of the struggles you had at that age. And most importantly it is very entertaining.

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