Has Pixar ever disappointed us? Have they ever run out of ideas that are imaginative, thought-provoking and entertaining? Because I'm hard-pressed to think of anything that Pixar has done wrong.
Even Pixar at its worst, particularly "Cars" and "Cars 2," still found a way to keep itself fresh and innovative, even with the main character being voiced by Larry The Cable Guy. In those films, there was a sense of child-like innocent that felt like you were playing with toy cars and coming up with these crazy stories about why they're racing. These might have just been gimmicks to sell toys, but at least they had good morals.
And that is Pixar on their off days.
In my opinion, Pixar can do no wrong. They have given us some of the most beautifully animated films of the last two decades, that are always smart, caring, funny, moving, innovative and colorful, all without an air of smugness or superiority. Pixar's films are at their best when they appeal to your child-like whimsy and wonder of the world, but also treat you like an intelligent adult without spoon-feeding you everything.
While Pixar has been relatively quiet the last few years, mostly producing sequels, their most recent work, "Inside Out," finds them returning to their roots and giving us a story that appeals to everyone, while still giving us the charm of films like "Up" and "Toy Story."
The story of "Inside Out" follows the childhood of a girl named Riley, but from the perspective of the emotions in control of her mind, Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyills Smith). The five of them work together to make sure that Riley leads a good life, even if all of them have differing ideas of how Riley's life should be operated.
Imagine this as "Boyhood" but from inside the head of the boy. And then animated by Pixar.
What I love about "Inside Out" is that these feel like the proper emotions that only wish to make Riley happy. Joy is blissfully ignorant but is always an optimist and very proud of how Riley has turned out, while Fear is afraid of Riley stepping on a crack in the sidewalk yet keeps everything in line to make sure that she doesn't do anything reckless.
The conflict arises because the emotions are still new to all of this and do not want to work with the others. All of them are hotheaded (especially Anger) because all they see in the world is their emotions. Why should Disgust have to cooperate with other emotions when there is nothing but gross and rude things in the world?
This isn't just the conflict in one little girl's head, but in all of us.
Everyone finds themselves wrestling with their own emotions, to the point where it seems like they are in control. Who we are and what we do is dictated by our own feelings and how use those emotions. This moves "Inside Out" out of the realm of fantasy and makes it a relatable story about understanding ones feelings and not letting one emotion control you. That the best experiences in life come when let the full range of emotions out, even the negative ones.
Outside of that, "Inside Out" has the usual Pixar charm of taking outlandish scenarios and putting as much imagination and thought as possible into it. We see every part of Riley's brain, and how her memories, dreams, subconscious and core thoughts run. Never does this feel tedious or repetitive, as each new part makes the human brain sound fascinating. From the movie-like production of her dreams, to her subconscious acting as a jail to her deepest fears.
The human brain is this constantly busy community that works like a well-oiled machine, fuelled by memories and purpose.
"Inside Out" is the best Pixar film since "Up" and easily ranks among their best work. This is by far their most imaginative film, setting an entire film inside the head of a girl, yet still able to make this epic chase around her never-ending maze of memories and save her defining characteristics. With a great sense of humor thanks to Bill Hader and Lewis Black, a vibrant color scheme that compliments the ongoing conflict, and a poignant message about emotions that anyone can understand, "Inside Out" surely will not be forgotten any time soon.
Final Grade: A-