by Michael Reistetter
Pixar’s 2015 box-office smash Inside Out reminded me of Silly Bandz. Incredibly hyped, with a merchandising upside for all children alike to adore. But Silly Bandz knew its selling point was in its simplicity, whereas Inside Out chose an alternative shortcut to dominance; over-conceptualization.
Pixar thrives where a plethora of animated production companies fail. A Pixar classic like Toy Story (and both it’s successful sequels) can evoke thematic virtues such as loss of innocence and maturation through subtle expansion within the confines of standard narrative structure.
They have humanized toys, monsters, and cars, to name a few. With their latest installation, though, Pixar has brought life to perhaps its most unique idea in years.
Inside Out personifies the emotions of a 10-year old girl named Riley. The emotions are Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust.
Humorous voice-work was lent by delightful banter from esteemed comedic actors Amy Phoeler (“SNL,” “Parks & Rec”), Bill Hader (“SNL,” “Trainwreck”), Phyllis Smith (“The Office”), Mindy Kaling (“The Office,” “The Mindy Project”), and Lewis Black (“The Daily Show with John Stewart”) as the five main emotions.
The emotion’s “host” Riley has her life flip-turned upside down when her family moves to San Francisco. She must adapt to her new surroundings with the aid of her emotions. Her emotions operate out of a division of Riley’s mind called “Headquarters.” Now, with the margin for happiness decreasing with each day, Joy (voiced by Poehler) gradually loses the tight grip she holds as the “quarterback” of her emotional comrades. As the main conflict is introduced, Joy informs the depressing downer, Sadness, (voiced by Smith) to avoid touching one of Riley’s “core” memories. If a core memory is touched by Sadness, its perception in Riley’s mind becomes permanently irreversible. You can infer what happens next, in terms of plot.
The highlights of the film are within the first ten minutes of its expository first act, because of the chemistry the seasoned voice actors have with one another. But separating Joy from the rest of her pack, although necessary to drive the story, could have been handled with more diligence and less propensity to correction via the special effects route. Not to mention, I felt unwillingly immersed in a downright plagiaristic atmosphere when thrown into the “Imaginationland” sequence. (“South Park,” 2007).
The animation of Inside Out was arguably close to perfection. However, musically and visually lifting viewers out of their seats while distracting them from the blatant issues presented on the surface ultimately explains my negative review. I wanted so badly to enjoy the film, and agree with its mass reputation as a poignant masterpiece. Upon witnessing the mistimed “Road to” elements of Joy’s side plot adventures with an imaginary version of Paul from Spin City, I realized this would be an unlikelihood.
Perhaps an elder audience would rationalize there was more adult sentiment expressed than they had originally anticipated, and someone my age would have to wait before I could ever appreciate such etiquette. Well, that may be true, despite my previous ability to comprehend how a stronger Pixar vehicle, Toy Story 3, could resonate with an entire generation of parents seeing their children on the verge of the leaving the nest.
By trying to capture a similar effect, Inside Out floundered in its attempts to mask their intentions behind cute dialogue, improbable interactions, and childhood memories collected from the point of views of both Riley’s and her parent’s emotions.