"Forget it, Jake. It's Cloud-Town."
One should never make an assumption going into a movie because it will cloud the experience and make you not appreciate what is really up there on the screen as a personal experience, rather than by, say, assessments of critics, studio-hype, or the impressions evoked by a trailer.
Pixar's latest, Inside Out, looked to be not much. The characters are cartoon-y, and not impressive in their rendering, like (you know) Minions or like a lot of the output of Dreamworks Animation. Pixar movies are events, pushing the form of animation, digital graphics and for just plain story-smarts, and the only time they've failed (I'm thinking the Cars movies and Planes) they've really dumbed down the artistry on all fronts. Inside Out looked to be like that, a place-holder until they could get The Good Dinosaur finalized.
Silly me. Inside Out may be the best Pixar movie yet, and that is saying a very Big Something. One of the best things about the studio's output has been its story-sense—that story comes out of character. Here, they do the flip-side: character comes out of story.
One doesn't want to talk too much about the particulars in depth because there is a lot of that, and part of the joy of Inside Out is discovering that depth and just how far the writers (especially) and the Pixar team go to achieving it. So, here's a gloss: Inside Out is about Riley (voiced by Kaitlin Dias), an 11 year-old girl living in Minnesota, into ice-hockey, and living a fairly normal life. Her family (Mom and dad are voiced by Diane Lane and Kyle McLachlan) move the family to San Francisco, uprooting Kiley's normal, changing schools, leaving friends and on a basic level shattering her "normal."
That "normal" began as an infant when she first opened her eyes and experienced "Joy" (voiced by Amy Poehler). The emotions that drive Riley throughout her childhood are brilliantly imagined and worked out on a mechanical level, but "Joy" is soon joined by "Sadness" (Phyllis Smith of "The Office"—brilliant). "Fear" (Bill Hader), "Disgust" (Mindy Kaling—ditto), and "Anger" (Lewis Black—of course). These five emotions mix and commingle, fight and compromise, getting Riley through her day, then call it "a day" when she goes to sleep. (One of my favorite lines is this summation from "Fear": "Okay, we did not die today. I call that an unqualified success!")
|Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear and Sadness monitoring in Head-quarters.
It won't affect the Greek's, either, who saw personality in the same way, although controlled by four "humors," each one tied to a body function. In decreasing orders of "Joy," they are sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic, and choleric. These four aspects controlled personality and informed their medicine, their social interactions, even their arts. Inside Out continues the long tradition of breaking personality into aspects which control our behaviors, our actions, and, ultimately, our lives. It examines character and motivation, not as merely a means to create drama, but to explain our selves.
It does all this and it's a flippin' cartoon! A flippin' cartoon that looks as sophisticated as Gerald McBoing-Boing.* But, then when has a flippin' cartoon tackled childhood angst and the complex dynamic of personality? Of how past experience informs and shapes us, and ultimately guides us, whether we are aware of it or not. It's a cartoon that will entertain children with its bright colors and simple concepts and educate adults, while not preaching, but entertaining, teaching by example and inspiring a path. A warm feeling of familiarity spread through me while watching Inside Out and I can't believe I would be alone in this feeling.This is what is amazing about the group of artists that make up Pixar, who pioneered the techniques and pitfalls of dimensional computer graphics, only to see their accomplishments copied and emulated. What nobody else has been able to grasp, though, is their story-telling sense. Because, even though the graphics sensibility is a technique that can be copied, their way of combining comedy with a solid lesson-learning prospectus, with the risk of injecting drama—heart-wrenching drama—into their films, whether its the melancholy 'When She Loved Me" sequence of Toy Story 2, the remarkable life-story prelude of Up, the basically-silent first section of Wall•e, or the furnace sequence of Toy Story 3, has taken narrative and emotional risks that only make the films far richer than any technological advance or artist's technique could create. This is also something inherited from the Greeks.
I can't recommend this one highly enough. The most praise I can heap on it is to merely so "go." Do not hesitate. Go see it. Whatever version you see, however much you spend on it, will be worth it.
Inside Out is "dedicated to our kids. please don't grow up. ever."
May Pixar do the same.
If you want to see Pixar's amazing graphics capabilities, the short preceding it, Lava, will fulfill that need.
* Okay, I'm simplifying there, although the characters of the emotions are definitely mindful of basic UPA cartoons. The home scenes are the same artfully detailed images Pixar lavishes attention on.