By Vincent Abbatecola
Aside from their last two or three movies, Pixar Animation Studios has treated filmgoers to a deep well of innovative stories. After they released the original “Toy Story” nearly 20 years ago, their movies have amazed us with their originality, intelligence, and depth. Pixar gave us more than movies; they gave cinema bright bursts of imagination.
With Pixar’s 15th film finally here, it’s evident that the studio still has an abundance of new ideas and the power to spellbind us with their storytelling talents. Pixar gifts us with one of their most inventive films yet with “Inside Out,” directed by Pete Doctor, a frequent collaborator with the studio. He delivers an endlessly creative vision of what it’s like to actually go inside the head of a character and see how their mind functions.
The story focuses on 11-year-old Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) and the five personified emotions we see inside her mind: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). When Riley and her parents move from Minnesota to California, her emotions do what they can to help her adjust to her new surroundings.
The voice cast is one of the funniest that has ever been assembled for a Pixar film. Given how comedic these performers are, it’s one of highlights of 2015 cinema to hear them voice these characters. The whole cast is wonderful, but there are some notable standouts, such as Poehler, who provides her bubbly personality to Joy, an infectiously upbeat character; Black, who is a great pick to voice Anger, a personality that we’ve seen him hilariously convey in his standup and other movie roles; Smith, who is a case of perfect voice casting, brings the same low-key and melancholy voice that her character had in “The Office;” and Richard Kind, who is a very memorable supporting character as the perpetually fun-loving and cheerful Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend from her childhood.
The screenplay by Pete Doctor, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley does countless clever things when showing Riley’s mind and how it operates. It goes from her emotions’ “headquarters,” to her long-term memory, to her abstract thought, to her imagination, to her forgotten memories, as well as other places. What’s interesting about this is that, although we actually see Riley and her displays of emotion throughout the film, we learn a lot about her mostly through what we see in her mind, rather than actually seeing her on screen. The film is also a story about growing up, having your emotions develop, and learning that those emotions become more complicated as you get older.
Pete Doctor, who has done much to bring Pixar’s films to life, including directing “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.,” brings the brilliant mix of emotions, laughs, and intelligent ideas that can be seen in many of the studio’s films. With Pixar having the cherished ability to make its moviegoers feel several different emotions while watching their movies, it’s very fitting that they bring a story to the screen that finds a way to personify those emotions and give them their own adventure, and once again, Doctor shares a story with us that’s both hilarious and very moving.
With “Inside Out,” Pixar continues its tradition of telling some of the best stories you will see in any modern children’s film, ones that will engage older audiences every bit as much as younger ones. Having seen this movie twice already, I can confidently say that, even if you love it upon your first viewing, you’ll love it even more the second time around. It’s a film that’s an absolute joy to experience (no pun intended), and is probably one of the best you will see all year.
This is a gorgeously crafted story involving matters of the mind, a story from the minds of geniuses.
Final grade: A