Sunday, 14 June 2015

Inside Out

(PG) ★★★★★

Director: Pete Docter.

Cast: (voices of) Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Richard Kind.

"They elected who as president?"

INSIDE Out is proof positive that when the Pixar brains trust puts its collective mind to an idea, they can do anything.

The thought of doing a film largely set within the head of an 11-year-old girl and where the principle characters are her emotions would send every other animation studio reaching for the metaphorical paracetamol before immediately turning its attention to another Madagascar/Ice Age/Shrek/Despicable Me sequel/spin off.

Not Pixar. Having already pushed the boundaries by using a grumpy elderly widower as a hero, making a largely wordless enviro-centric sci-fi flick, and celebrating the joys of food with a cast of rats, the concept at the heart of Inside Out is a bold yet natural progression for this game-changing institution.

But the fact that they pull off this hair-brained idea so brilliantly and beautifully is enough to make you want to stand up and applaud.

The 11-year-old girl in question is Riley (voiced by Dias) and the emotions in charge of the control room that is her mind are Joy (Poehler), Fear (Hader), Disgust (Kaling), Anger (Black), and Sadness (Smith). All are tested when Riley and her folks (Lane and MacLachlan) sell up their Minnesota home and relocate to San Francisco, triggering something of an emotional breakdown for the girl and her anthropomorphic feelings.

Director Docter (Up, Monsters Inc), the screenwriters, and Pixar's brain trust reportedly spent three and a half years getting the story of Inside Out exactly right, and it shows.

The script sets up Riley's internal world with an ease that belies the amount of thought, research and sweat that must have gone into it - in the charmingly simple opening, we're introduced to the emotions, their roles, and the creative way the film demonstrates such intangible concepts as making and storing memories and the things that are important to Riley in her own mind.

At its simplest it's a journey story - two of the characters are trying to get from one place to another - but that journey takes us through some fascinating locations we've never seen in a family film before. Abstract thought, the subconscious, the imagination, "the dream factory", long-term memory - these are all shown in inventive ways, as are the critters that populate these areas.

But this is so much more than just a journey. There is a level of depth, heart, reality, beauty, honesty and, of course, emotion in this film that is astounding for any type of movie, let alone something that's largely marketed to kids.

At the lowest age bracket, which is lower primary school-age children, there is enough light and movement to keep them interested, plus they're bound to have a basic enough grasp of different emotions to keep track of things.

At the "tween" level (and for early teens), the subject matter is bound to resonate, as they've just gone through these kind of pre-pubescent mental shifts or are just about to go through them. It's dealt with so simply and truthfully that it has to hit the mark.

Realistically though, this is a movie for the parents. This film is a grown-up wolf in kid's clothing, or mutton dressed as lamb, to labour the sheep analogies.

It's bright colours and cartoonish characters may make it look like its targeted at the young'uns, however the beautifully nuanced ideas such as the loss of innocence and the importance of sadness reveal this as the mature think-piece it really is. It's a movie about kids trying to understand who they are, and as a result, it's about and for parents trying to understand their kids.

Inside Out is also laugh-at-loud funny, cry-out-loud moving, and genuinely thrilling, exciting and fascinating.

Picking the greatest Pixar movie was already difficult, but the arrival of their latest effort just made it all the harder.

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