WARNING: probably spoilers ahead.
It was a cinema heavy weekend for me with Pixar’s newest entry Inside Out opening the weekend’s viewing. The film main character is Joy, the lead emotion for an eleven year old girl called Riley, whose life has been turned upside down when she and her family move to San Francisco, the stress of which has brought Sadness to the fore. When Joy and Sadness are accidentally swept into the outreaches of Riley’s mind, the only emotions remaining in Headquarters are Anger, Fear and Disgust.
Okay let us not beat around the bush, is it good? Yes. Is it very good? Yes. Is it great? Hmm… for my money, close but no cigar.
It’s likely been said before and undoubtedly will be said again a large part of Pixar’s success come from the fact that they don’t really make children’s films, they make films children can enjoy. I was at an early evening showing, with the about three quarters of the seats and children were pretty few and far between. At its heart Inside Out is a film about growing up and the search for emotional balance that come with it.
As the voice of Joy it falls to Amy Poehier to do the heavy lifting and she proves equal to the task. She manages to get across the endlessly upbeat attitude and the sometime difficult relationship with the other emotions, in particular with Sadness, where there is definitely more than a hint of suppressed urge to aim a kick. Joy means the best but suffers the flaw that she is bit of a control freak who really wants things to stay the way they are.
One thing that I thought was interesting and quite admirable was that Riley was a girl. With one or two small changes to the script the character could have just as easily been a boy. Her passion for ice hockey and the fact that she is good at it is a major part of her character and at no point is anything made of this. By that I mean nothing is said or implied that this is in anyway unusual. I think not that long ago a point would have been made that she was good at hockey despite being girl and I think that is a positive change.
During their journey through Riley’s mind Joy see parts of the child she was and adult she will become, which I think nicely shows how all of us are in state of transition from the person we were to the one we will be. I mentioned earlier the search for emotional balance is a central theme, the phrase that closes so many classic stories is: They Lived Happily Ever After; Inside Out shows how a person dominated by a ‘positive’ emotion like Joy, would be as much an emotional cripple as one controlled by say Anger because quiet simply, there will be times when negative emotions gets things done.
The visuals are up Pixar’s usual high standards, bright, clear but by how we’re come to expect this and indeed it would be shocking if the visuals weren’t effective. One visual idea which I liked was that the emotions control panel changes and is upgraded as Riley ages, the first one being a single button (cry or don’t cry) while at the close they have a new and extended panel (what’s this button marked puberty? I don’t know, I’m sure its not important). So why then do I not think this should go down as great?
Well I’m still pondering that one myself. I think because this is a film which I think an adult will get more from than a child. Perhaps I’m wrong, I don’t have a child to ask but just don’t think this is quite the stuff of classics.