Pixar has been one of the most heralded studios of our time. With animated films that find ways to engage adults while still making kids happy, the studio is beloved by the critical community. I find my relationship with the studio to be a bit less enthusiastic. I don’t think Pixar has ever made a truly bad film, but none of their films outside their original effort, Toy Story, have truly left a lasting impact on me. Most of their films are just unique efforts that ultimately don’t stick with me for too long. The same can be said for their latest effort Inside Out. The film has many fun and exciting ideas, but it ultimately comes across as a film that doesn’t bring all of these ideas together in such a way that could be considered memorable.
Inside Out takes place in the mind of a girl on the verge of puberty as the emotions, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (the American version of The Office’s Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader), try to keep control of her mind. When Sadness starts acting strangely, Joy and Sadness find themselves separated and must find their way back into the control room of the mind.
The story in Inside Out is rather complex for a kid’s film. Most kids should be able to get the storyline, but they will certainly miss out on many of the jokes and subtle nods of life wisdom that come with it. However, the complexity of the plot allows for some very interesting moments. A reoccurring joke about a gum commercial will go over the head of most kids but is one of the best jokes you will see in a film this year, and while children will have some sort of attachment to the tragedy of Bing Bong (Richard Kind delivering an incredible voice performance) they won’t get the whole story into what is the most effective storyline in the entire film. These are just a couple of the mish-mash of ideas that are put into this film, and that’s what this film ultimately is, a mish-mash of admittedly interesting ideas. The film just never completely comes across as a complete and sturdy product.
Despite this the ambition and incredible craft work (Michael Giacchino delivers one of his best scores ever and the voice work is all-around great) put into this film are hard to deny. Inside Out may be a bit of a mess, but some of the parts of the film are some of the best work in film you will see this year.