Pete Docter's "Inside Out" Is Pixar at their Emotional Best

Inside Out

Director: Pete Docter
Studio: Pixar Animation
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: PG (For mild thematic elements and some action)

Note: This review was originally published in 2015.

Pixar is not the company it used to be. They used to give us classic film, after classic film, after classic film. It was the studio that kept on giving, and I think we took that for granted. Once the Walt Disney Company bought them their philosophy changed. After “Up” was released they were focused on one thing: Franchises! This brought us “Toy Story 3,” “Cars 2,” “Monsters University,” and their one original movie, “Brave.” Despite the awards most of these movies brought in, I admit to feeling underwhelmed by all of them. Most of them weren't bad, but it was clear where their heart was in the making of them. Those movies were made for the stock market, not the audiences who made them the most loved studio in the world.

That said, you can't deny that prior to these movies, Pixar films did give us some of the most emotional movies in the last twenty years than any other studio had. Because of this, it's fitting that they should actually make a movie about emotions, where they walk around, talk, and live in various cities in the brain. “Inside Out” revolves around a young girl named Riley, who was living a happy life until her family decided to move to San Francisco because of her dad's job. She doesn't know quite how to handle herself. That is because she has a brain that looks like a theme park, and emotions that all have separate personalities. They are Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness. These emotions all stay at the command center, where they are responsible for Riley's emotions and recording memories.

All of these characters are fighting for time at the control panel and none of them seem to have a concept of sharing. Part of the reason may be because the defacto leader is Joy, who keeps everything under tight control and just wants to see Riley happy all the time (makes sense). Her biggest opposition is Sadness, who is usually depressed, seems to get in the way of the good times, and really, Joy just doesn't understand why she's necessary to the ‘process' of being Riley. The two find they'll have to work together when an accident takes Joy and Sadness out of the control room and into the rest of the brain, where they must traverse the various lands in Riley's head, as well as the Halls of Long Term Memory.

These halls are so big and cluttered, that sometimes memories need to be removed so new ones can take their place. Memories that start to fade are the first to go. These include memories of her imaginary friend and old books she used to color. Oh, but that Triple Gum commercial with the catchy song? Nope, that one's going to stick around forever. Without Joy to helm the controls at the main center though, what is there to make Riley happy? And what happens when she dreams? Where do those come from? Pixar, it appears, has endless ideas about how our emotions work (I also noticed they thank a couple of highly respected psychiatrists in the closing credits), with each one more inventive than the last. It should be noted that the film was directed by Pete Doctor, who also directed “Monsters, Inc.” and “Up,” so inventiveness seems to be one of his signature styles!

As one of the ‘Pixar Brain Trust,' he has a great understanding of how great movies work, and he shows that he is still as imaginative as ever. I don't want to harp too much on the last several Pixar films, but THIS is how those movies should have been! “Inside Out” is so creative, so emotional, and so radical in what it's about, that it puts all the other movies I've seen this year to shame. It's one of those rare films that comes along once a decade and hits every good note to become an instant classic. Indeed, if there was ever a case to make for an animated film winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards, there is no better recent example than “Inside Out.”

This is one of the best films of the year! It's probably Pixar's best film of all time! It's going to have the kind of word-of-mouth that money can't buy! It was made not for the stock market, but because it was just a great story, and we're all blessed to have it! I still fear for its box office prospects. For how clever the whole thing is, it IS a little hard to sell people on the idea! This might be the first time in a while that writing the review seemed more daunting than usual. I just can't do it justice. I hope this is the start of a renaissance of sorts for the company. Sadly, after “The Good Dinosaur” comes out this year they will be releasing “Cars 3,” “The Incredibles 2,” and “Finding Dory” over the next few years. Well, it was nice while it lasted.