It’s the best-reviewed film of the year, a huge international box office success, and already it’s being pegged to not just receive an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature (when the announcements are made in January), but a slot for Best Picture as well. It’s not unprecedented. “Toy Story 3” achieved it in 2010. And the year before that, “Up” received the same accolade. Peter Docter, btw, was the director for “Up”, as well as the film I’m reviewing here now. Is “Inside Out” really that good? For the most part–absolutely yes. But I do have a few reservations, that keep me from completely jumping on board the wildly enthusiastic praise boat. Anyway, I like “Inside Out” far better than “Up”, but maybe less than the director’s first feature–the superb “Monsters Inc.” from 2001. Plus, “Inside Out” is legions superior to this summer’s frothy, disposable “Minions”. So, “Inside Out” manages both prestige and class.
Most of you Pixar lovers have seen the movie by now, right? An 11-year-old girl named Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) goes through a maelstrom of emotions, upon her family relocating from Minnesota to San Francisco. Ripped away from her friends, her school, and the only home she’s ever known, we, the audience, are treated to a unique glimpse inside the working of young Riley’s mind. And what we see is a colorful control room, run by the five “power islands” of Riley’s personality. There is Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader), Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith). The group of them maintain a fragile grip on Riley’s emotional state, as Joy and Sadness begin an interior odyssey to soften Riley’s long-term memories. We also meet Riley’s forgotten imaginary friend, Bing Bong, voiced by the eclectic Richard Kind.
It appears that Peter Docter has a vice grip on the melancholy cartoon genre. All three of his animated features contain devastatingly real, and decidedly accurate, emotional content. In a way, “Inside Out” is the furthest thing from a kid’s picture since–well, probably Docter’s own “Up”. But even more so here. I think that Mr. Docter has the market officially cornered on animated scenarios that speak closer to the parents, than their giggling offspring. Does Docter, along with his team of screenwriters, occasionally give in to formula devices and lightly sexist clichés? Yeah…but why quibble. This is superior motion picture-making, with an incredible voice cast, and an immensely clever and creative script. Regardless of the categories, Oscar wins are a virtual guarantee at this point. “Inside Out” is a gorgeous, 3D-look, and heart-tugging glimpse, at the inevitable growth of our children. Don’t miss it.