Inside Out written and directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen (Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, PG, 95 min)

Starring Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, and Kyle MacLachlan.

Trying Something Different

How often do you have a million-dollar idea? I don’t know about you, but it seems like I’ve got something that could generate revenue every month. Granted, I’m pretty sure these ideas are worse than Tom Haverford’s ideas in Parks and Recreation, but it’s still fun to imagine how these concepts could become reality.

Honestly, ideas represent the easy portion of any project. The sweat emerges in the details. How can this idea breathe new life?

The difficulty in sculpting an idea into a plausible working scenario proves itself in the lack of novelty in almost everything. People as a whole receive inspiration from true innovation because it’s rare.

Pixar has earned a foothold on novel ideas in the world of animation. While the studio has a house narrative style, it continues to push the storytelling envelope.

Inside Out, this year’s installment, continues to prove the point.

Multi-Narrative

The film proceeds under a dual narrative. At a macro level, 11-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) becomes uprooted from her comfortable Minnesota existence when her family moves west to San Francisco. Such a plot offers fertile ground to cultivate the fears of a young child when a fresh environment means new friends and cultures.

But Inside Out approaches this macro story through its principle plot device, the emotions inside her head.

Within a control room in her brain, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) navigate Riley’s day. With Joy as the group’s leader, the central mission is to situate Riley within a happy ethos. Every feeling she experiences manufactures an emotion-specific orb (color-coded of course) that gets flushed to long-term memory storage every night.

But on the most important of days, Riley might experience a core memory. These glowing orbs create islands of personality in Riley’s mind.

As you might expect, the move threatens Riley’s sunny disposition, and a core memory of sadness causes chaos when Joy attempts to flush it away into long-term memory. Joy and Sadness get flushed along with it and the duo needs to begin a hero’s journey to return back to the control room in time to save the day as Riley’s life is crumbling.

The Virtue of Sadness

While daring from a storytelling perspective and humorous on many levels, Inside Out’s most innovative idea is to point a critical light at the idea of unbridled happiness and joy. Joy, albeit the central emotional protagonist, rules Riley’s emotions with an iron fist. She presumes to know what’s best for Riley to feel. Joy joy joy. All the time.

But life isn’t always joyful, and the best response to external factors often requires a variety of emotions. For this reason, Sadness, despite her various threnodies, becomes the key to understanding the film. Inside Out posits the importance of sadness in a functioning life.

For a movie aimed at children, such a position is pretty groundbreaking.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

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