Pixar’s first film in two years is a disappointment to me. Perhaps I was over-sold on the hype; the glowing reviews starting from the Cannes film festival to its release, the highest opening gross for an original movie. Yet despite all of that success, for me there wasn’t much going on “Inside Out”.
As an abstract premise, taking place inside the mind of an 11 year-old girl named Riley there are huge troves of ideas and routes the film could have taken. Though likely due to budgetary concerns and a troubled development schedule, great ideas are only hinted at. The sequence of the other emotions; Fear, Disgust, and Anger filling in for Joy at the mind control console is a standout. Still while the most rudimentary course of action is taken, this feels like one of the few times Pixar has taken the safe route creatively, and I was able to predict where most of the film was going to go from beginning to end. As such I found the film rather boring.
Spoiled Territory: Kept secret from the plot, the imaginary character Bing-Bong voiced by Richard Kind, is an annoying ploy to babysit the kids in the audience while activating the nostalgia in adults. Relaying forgotten childhood dreams his arc is as plain as day, and it makes sense as someone like me in the middle of those two audiences would perhaps miss the intended effects of his presence. The character does at least qualify his presence with a send off late in the film which does evoke some emotion but it feels like he lingers on too long and doesn’t make up for the rest of what the film is lacking: imagination. One wonders what WALL-E and Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton would’ve committed to the premise.
The character of Sadness remains a burden throughout most of the film. As we know expressing all emotions is healthy to the human condition. To maintain an arc the film holds off Riley being able to properly express those emotions until the end. In doing so, the film struggles to make the emotion a character to root for. I rolled my eyes anytime the film had anything to do with the character on-screen and wish they weren’t treated with such roadblocks and sterility.
The best parts of the film are the flashbacks, times that show Riley at a younger age strongly reflecting her emotions, they pinch the viewers similar to how Pete Docter’s last film “Up” for its famous montage. I wish the scale of the film was larger than a mere 72 hours inside Riley’s mind. Again, likely to give production enough focus, in doing so robs the film of its greater opportunities. I wanted more of the emotions working together, instead mostly we get a mixed bag of each of them acting out on their own before being calmed down by Joy. Maybe in a sequel we’ll be able to see Fear, Anger, Joy, Sadness, and disgust handled in a more complex and interesting way the film hints at, but presently when Pixar takes you inside the mind these complex interactions are remissed.
Rating: 6.5/ 10