********* 9 out of 10 *********
Director: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Actors: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith
Imagination is a tool which film-makers get to yield with hardly any restrictions. They can conjure any kind of alien being, any sort of superhero with physics-defying powers, any type of Government espionage, literally anything. But to imagine is one thing, and then to bring it on the big screen with perfection is another. To make you believe, for that brief period of two hours or so, that the world shown on that screen is really happening somewhere, to make you connect with those imaginary characters emotionally, to make you feel their sorrow and to make you laugh in their joy, that is what great films are all about. When twenty years back, Pixar Animation Studios released its first animated feature film Toy Story, and made us take a plunge in the world of talking and moving children’s toys, irrespective of our own age, we knew that here was a studio with something special about it. Now when I saw Inside Out, I could not help but remember the beauty of Toy Story again, and appreciate the craziness of the plot which seems so believable, so authentic, as if Pixar knows the secrets behind the working of this world which we do not. And we are now fortunate to have been let in on it. Here is definitely a studio with something special about it!
Inside Out is the story of a young girl, Riley, who is born in Minnesota. Early on we meet her five emotions – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger – who live in Headquarters, which is Riley’s conscious mind, and steer her through her everyday life. When Riley is eleven years old, her family relocates to San Francisco. Things are different here, and the change is tough on a young girl. So she needs her emotion Joy all the more to get her through the day. But when Joy gets displaced out of the Headquarters, along with Sadness, Riley’s life is about to get messier. Joy has to find a way back to Headquarters before things get seriously worse. It’s an adventure alright, all inside the mechanics of our mind!
The folks at Pixar say that Inside Out has been in the making for five years. I totally believe them, for it ain’t a movie that can be made by one brilliant spark of imagination. You need that spark alright, but there is so much more hard work which has to go into getting each aspect of the plot perfectly right. For example, how many emotions to begin with? I read somewhere that the five were trimmed down from a list of twenty-seven. That itself would have been hardwork! The sheer quality of the final product that we get to watch could not have been shaped without many many hours of thoughts, discussions, calculations, and some more discussions. It is like chiseling a sculpture, every hit on the stone done with a purpose, which shines in glory once the final strike is completed. With such beauty and elegance has the storyline of Inside Out been written. The story is credited to director Pete Docter who is the ‘spark’ behind the film and co-director Ronaldo Del Carmen. The screenplay credits go to Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, who both have made their debuts in the writing department for a full-length film here (wow!), along with Pete Docter.
Pete Docter, a veteran at Pixar, knows a thing or two about creating an emotional connect. He was the man who steered Monsters, Inc. to such incredible heights in the early days of Pixar as a film studio, and then displayed his magical touch again with Up. Both the movies had a wonderful adventure with some adorable characters, and that same logic follows in Inside Out. But with Inside Out, the intricacies go deeper. The whole mechanism of how our mind works is given shape with such clarity and logic, that it just feels right, even if it may not be the case in the real world. After the movie ends, you too might wonder about the five emotions seated in your Headquarters, deciding on how you would feel today. Docter, Carmen and the writing team have grasped the changes in emotions that a young girl would feel, and then cleverly weaved an explanation for it in a visually colourful and incredibly humorous manner. Just like any other Pixar movie, the adventure takes a dark turn here and there which will make your heart skip a beat, shout out for the characters to be careful, wish that everything will be alright in the end. The music by veteran Michael Giacchino is absolutely fantastic, and builds on the excitement and the adrenaline rush that the movie has in plenty. The animation work in itself is another masterpiece by Pixar, with so much in-depth detailing, along with throwing in the right colours which makes the movie-watching experience dreamlike. Each of the emotions are shaped in a particular way for a reason, and their colours too tell a story. You expect nothing less from Pixar when it comes to the animation work, and the studio has once again delivered something mind-boggling.
Inside Out probably has one of the bigger ‘core’ character teams than any other Pixar movie, which thus required a good set of voice actors. The studio got Amy Poehler on board to voice Joy, and that was some move! Poehler is a fun and lively person herself, and she fit into the shoes of Joy with absolute ease. She gives this character a lot of heart and soul, and the real beauty of her voice is heard when her character of Joy displays those moments of sadness. Besides her is Phyllis Smith voicing Sadness, who some would remember from the American TV series The Office. Getting Phyllis Smith for this part is another masterstroke which you can appreciate only once you hear Sadness, for she is oh so sad throughout the film, and yet such a delight to watch in her own way. The manner in which Joy and Sadness clash and collaborate is one of the highlights of the film, and as much as the Pixar team deserves applause for drawing out these moments, some needs to be reserved for Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith for bringing life to those drawings. Then we have Bill Hader as Fear, Lewis King as Anger and Mindy Kaling as Disgust, who are fantastic in bringing out the right tones for the emotions they are playing, not going overboard nor missing the beat. Young Kaitlyn Dias is the voice of Riley, and Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan voice her parents, each fitting into their roles to perfection. And of course, there is Richard Kind voicing Bing Bong, a really special character who is going to turn out to be one of the most beloved Pixar characters. And for all Pixar fans, the amazing John Ratzenberger, who has voiced characters in each of Pixar’s films, is part of Inside Out too!
After the rather ordinary Cars 2 in 2011, we worried on whether the downhill of Pixar Animation Studios had begun. It bounced back superbly with Brave and then with Monsters University to make us feel at peace again. But what Pixar is really capable of creating is exemplified by Inside Out. This ain’t just a brilliant movie, but a brilliant piece of art. If it would have been a sculpture then it would have been created by Michelangelo, if it would have been a painting then by Leonardo da Vinci, if it would have been a poem then written by William Wordsworth, but since it is an animated movie, it has to be by Pixar. Amen.
P.S.: I found the short film Lava played at the beginning of the movie to be a bit of a disappointment. That is the only complaint I can make.