Inside Out is very possibly the best Pixar movie.
I know, I know – that’s almost sacrilege to say. Since their groundbreaking 1995 debut feature Toy Story, Pixar has two decades of high concept storytelling under their belt, challenging audiences to wonder, “what if..?” on an almost annual basis. Inside Out takes it that step further, offering a “so what..?”, satisfying conclusion worthy of the ambitious exposition. The narrative is in direct support of a very compelling premise.
Inside Out is the spectacular one-two punch that meets both of these high bars, with (literally) flying colors. Told through dazzling, candy-colored visuals, we see the development of the human mind from birth settling into adolescence. As the star human, Riley, grows older, her emotions mature – starting with pure Joy, then clashing with Sadness, and later adding Anger, Disgust, and Fear as she delves further and further into the great adventure of life.
Her emotions run wild, however, as they face their toughest challenge yet – Riley and her family move cross-country, displacing her from her home, her friends, all her sources of emotional nourishment. Thrown off-balance, her reactions are initially rash, extreme outbursts, later developing into numb, cold indifference and apathy. Inside her head, her two most powerful emotions, Joy and Sadness, have lost control of Riley (after being absorbed out of her “Headquarters”), and struggling to get back and return her to her old self again.
Along the way, like any and every Pixar movie, the two bicker but learn to coexist and even value the other. Where this excels so far beyond standard Pixar fare though, is how universal the stakes are; the necessity of stable, balanced emotions is no mere plot construction but a fundamental, sometimes challenging fact. Not many family movies will tell you it’s okay to be sad, or tackle these heavier issues of mental health and even depression.
Every step of the way, Inside Out does not feel like a film about 11-year-old Riley, or even Joy or Sadness. Not many movies seem so essential to understanding ourselves and each other, but this captivating and emotional journey tells the story of our life – of everybody’s life – to a wonderfully colorful and fabulously entertaining degree. Inside Out is the absolute must-see film of the year.