This morning I had the pleasure of seeing Pixar Studio’s Inside Out for the first time, and I left the theater with tears lingering in my eyes, amazed by the sheer emotional weight of what I had just seen. My parents and I hit up the too-good-to-be-true $2.75 11am showing at the Frederick Holiday Cinemas, along with dozens of families with tiny kids trying to beat the somber, very gray rainy day. The partner feature across the way, Minions, was definitely more crowded, but we were still surrounded by dads, moms and kids munching on popcorn.
After receiving nearly unanimous critical acclaim and breaking all sorts of box office records–not to mention the effusive word of mouth hype–I sat down knowing that Inside Out was going to please me. Well, I was wholly unprepared. It left me–for lack of a better word–feeling. And not only was I feeling emotions intensely, I was feeling them all at once.
The movie follows eleven year old Riley, who up until the movie’s predictably typical yet satisfyingly effective plot device has enjoyed a wonderful life growing up in Minnesota. Her emotions of Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) are all personified and housed in a “control center.” Along with other personifications of parts of her brain, her emotions navigate life through her experiences, doing their best to absorb the memories each day creates. While each emotion has their own personality, together they are what makes Riley herself.
Do not worry, the film is actually more complicated than that, and that is the best part. When operating at its best, Pixar manages to take compelling, complicated subject matter and deliver it through a medium that is close to universal but not watered down. For example, taking something as trivial as a “train of thought” and literally turning it into a train that uncontrollably wanders around Riley’s head is not dumbing down how the human brain works, it is an accurate portrayal of how we think.
Perhaps the only critique that Inside Out has received is that it comes dangerously close to flying over kids’ heads, and it will for some. However, that is precisely the point of the film and part of the reason why it is Pixar’s magnum opus. As human beings, our brains and our emotions work in such a way that we are constantly changing and evolving. At the age of eleven, Riley’s personality and maturity is in a state of flux and by the end of the film, she is not the same person that she was at the start. How do you think that affects her emotions?
It is the genius question that drives the film and turns it into one of the greatest films ever made. A debatable opinion to be sure, but at the very least it deserves best picture. By making a movie about emotions, Pixar has managed to create arguably the only film that every human being on this earth can relate to, and I can think of no better reason why everyone should see Inside Out.