The most original Pixar Film in Years
Thank you Pixar. Thank you for once again reminding us that you are spectacular storytellers. Look. It's impossible to deny that Pixar has been on a, well, less-than-stellar tear recently. Cars 2 is pretty much universally proclaimed as the worst film in their history, with Brave and Monsters University better, but still not up to par with what we expect from the revered studio. However, this all changes with Inside Out. Easily the best film Pixar has made since 2010's Toy Story 3, Inside Out is original, funny, creative, and....well....a blast! The film is certainly not perfect, with the first act of the film far outpacing the overused two-main-characters-with-opposing-viewpoints-become-lost-and-most-unite-to-return-to-the-rest-of-the-main-characters storyline we get in the second and third acts, but this film is still an incredibly enjoyable ride. And definitely fun for the whole family.
So, let's first talk about my one big complaint. I wish Pixar would have been comfortable with the premise they initially established in the first act. I definitely could have watched an entire 94 minute film about Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust all in one room and trying to get along in the day-to-day life of an young girl. We could've watched the girl grow up and develop her likes and dislikes as she becomes older. For example, maybe as a child she thinks boys have cooties and avoids them, but suddenly right around her 15th birthday she takes a liking to boys and the emotion of Love is introduced and the other characters have to incorporate that emotion into their group. Maybe her parents divorce and Anger manages to take over her brain for a while and Joy has to figure out how to calm that emotion down. These stories sound vastly more interesting to me than the one we got, which was Joy and Sadness exploring her brain figuring out how to return to "central HQ." This stems from an, oddly enough, lack of confidence from Pixar to believe in the premise they created. We've seen it before from them. They probably weren't sure if they could pull off such a radical and crazy idea as this and thus took the safe route of putting a standard rescue story with two characters who are opposites together for the majority of the film. That said, I'm basically splitting hairs, as even this overused premise is executed faaaaaar better than 99% of the other times this premise has been used.
So, what does this story get right? Well, basically everything else. First off, the animation is, as usual, beautiful. Pixar's style has been adopted by most because it seems easy, but it's not. Even in the trailers before this film I noticed several films adopting Pixar's style and looking TERRIBLE in the process. But Pixar is still, in my opinion, the best animation studio in the world, and I base this statement on the beauty of films like this. Joy? Joy's character design is insane. The amount of pixels on her must be astronomical to make her look beautiful as she does, especially when you're watching this film on the big screen. Her character in and of itself is a tremendous achievement for animation, not to mention the attention-to-detail on the other character models as well. The hair of Sadness in particular is spectacular. Though, a friend of mine brought up the valid complaint that every woman in Pixar's animation looks the same, which is kind of true. Look at the picture at the top and you'll see very similar facial animation models for Joy, Sadness, and Disgust, but hugely different facial animation models for Anger and Fear. Sadly, this is not a coincidence. Anyway, the score? Outstanding. Michael Giacchino, essentially Disney's go-to at this point, once again delivers a beautiful score for this film. And of course the voice acting. Everyone in this film is great. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith have great chemistry as Joy and Sadness, and Bill Hader, (Fear) Lewis Black, (Anger) Mindy Kaling, (Disgust) Diane Lane, (Mom) and Kyle MacLachlan (Dad) all bring their A-game for these performances. Finally, there's Riley. Voiced by newcomer Kaitlyn Dias, pulling off a main character who barely speaks and yet has so many emotions is one of the biggest accomplishments Pixar has had in its rich history. You find yourself coming to care about this character immensely through her emotions, and it leads to one heck of an ugly cry towards the end of the film. Well done, Pixar. Well done.
The Critique: An original and captivating premise, Inside Out is easily the most creative and well-executed idea to come out of Pixar in years.
The Recommendation: Yes. A must-see for kids, parents, and fans of Pixar alike.
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome
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