At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Inside Out “2015”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Inside Out “2015”

MPAA Rating: PG/Genre: Computer Animated Comedy Drama/Voices of: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Paula Poundstone, Bobby Moynihan, Paula Pell, Dave Goelz, Frank Oz, Josh Cooley, Flea, John Ratzenberger, Carlos Alazraqui, Peter Sagal, Rashida Jones/Runtime: 95 minutes

I think it’s safe to say dear reader that if you asked people who grew up in the early 90s what their favorite television show to watch after a long day at school or the office was you’re more than likely going to hear quite a few responses. In fact if I had to guess I would say you’d probably hear Tales from the Crypt or In Living Color whereas others might say Married with Children, Are You Afraid of the Dark, Quantum Leap, or even Cops to name but a few. Out of 100 people though I must confess that I would be surprised if even 2 of those people mentioned a show called “Herman’s Head”. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, this was a show that aired on FOX from 1991-1994 and dealt with the various misadventures of a young man named (get this) Herman living in Manhattan (of course) as well as the quartet of human actors that each represented a distinct aspect to this guy’s psyche. Yet whilst that show was very much meant for adults (as made evident by, among other things, the fact that one of the psyche roles is supposed to represent Herman’s lust) I think there must have been at least one employee over at iconic animation studio Pixar who had at least one fond memory of this show and thought it might make for a good subject matter to tackle for audiences of all ages. I say this because, underrated Disney World attraction Cranium Command aside, I can’t think of any other source of inspiration for the 2015 slice of cinema, and movie I am reviewing for you today incidentally, Inside Out. However even though it may have been its main source of inspiration, I think it’s safe to say that no matter if it’s your first time or 53rd time watching it, you will love Inside Out a heck of a lot more than audiences back in the day ever did Herman’s Head. I say that because yes there are a few miniscule issues here and there with this film, but overall this slice of cinema manages to not only be a phenomenally performed and beautifully made piece of art. Rather, it also happens to be a brilliant example for how a film, when it is made at the level that this one is, can be blessed with taking on a truly complex concept/idea in such a way that you not only ensure that it is comprehensible as well as just plain enjoyable for people ages 1-100 (and even beyond that come to think), but also that the film is able to hang on to all the vital and intricate nuances that come prepackaged with that concept/idea as well.

The plot is as follows: Inside Out gets its narrative underway by introducing us to a young girl by the name of Riley. A girl who, among other noteworthy things, has contently lived her entire life in the state of Minnesota due in large part to the close relationships she has with both friends and her parents as well as the time she has spent being a part of her local hockey team among other fond and wonderful memories. Unfortunately for Riley we see that the world she knows and loves is soon upended when her dad gets a new job and therefore the family has to move from Minnesota all the way to San Francsico. An adjustment that Riley, it should come as no surprise to learn, doesn’t handle all that well. As hard as it is for Riley though, it’s just as (if not even more so) difficult for her emotions to process. Oh yes I guess I should mention that this is a world where not only are people’s basic core emotions personified, but we as movie goers are also given a chance to spend a significant amount of time with them as they try to help their respective person navigate the challenges of each new day. In Riley’s case, that emotion squad is made up of Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness respectively although truth be told the emotions don’t really view Sadness as important to Riley’s wellbeing as the rest of them so they don’t really give her a chance to play as much of a part. This will soon come into play as we see that, during one particularly rough day in the life of Riley, this results in a sudden shift in the emotions’ ability to function due to Sadness and Joy engaging in a bit of squabble. A squabble that suddenly sees the pair, along with the core memories that Riley holds dear, being taken to the farthest possible locales within Riley’s mind. Thus, with the other three emotions doing everything they can to keep everything from going inside out only to have it result in Riley starting to lose her ability to feel pretty much anything, can Joy and Sadness put their differences aside in order to get back and restore order or is Riley’s emotional state to say nothing of her wellbeing about to be shut down for good? That I will leave for you to discover for yourself dear reader…..

Now in terms of the work done behind the camera, it is worth noting that this slice of cinema is phenomenal in every sense of the word. This starts with the fact that yes the world and characters are lively, animated, and (of course) fictional, but even with that in mind this film contains a genuine, terrifically sculpted, and quite intriguing analysis of both life as well as how we as individuals deal with it to say nothing of how our most cherished memories are both created and over time remolded through growing up as well as the experiences we have. Indeed that is quite the hefty to say nothing of thought-provoking material to be working with and it says something that the screenwriting team is able to give it to movie goers in such a way that it manages to be relatable to everyone regardless of their age group and/or experiences in this world. Not content with just that however, we see that the writing team on this film is able to provide a seemingly limitless amount of mind-oriented comedy that are not all only genuinely funny, but also prove to be just as relatable to as the heftier material that the narrative is working with. We also see that a lot of the other technical components on display here are just as top-tier. This starts with the fact that not only are the designs for the respective emotional states and others incredible to look at, but they all manage to permit the characters to move in such a manner that it feels honest and very particular to that character. Therefore, we see that, among other examples, Anger is always fuming and sulking, Fear is very fidgety and timid, Joy is consistently all over the place, and Sadness moves with her (?) shoulders slumped and in a very melancholic manner respectively. Along with that, it should be noted that the work done by the sound design department manages to do a remarkable job at utilizing a lot of real-world sounds perfectly in this completely novel world with my favorite example being the clink of glass whenever some of the memory orbs make contact. Perhaps the most incredible thing about this film though from a behind the camera perspective however is the fact that this film does a genuinely brilliant job at creating the world its story takes place in. Indeed not only are we taught in a concise manner how this world works thus making how important key things are quite clear from the start, but it also helps to ensure that these items are given the proper amount of pathos from us as movie goers when things begin going a bit awry. As a result, we as movie goers find ourselves being driven to tears for such things that are key elements to these worlds such as the various stations that make up the important things on Riley’s mind when they begin to slowly but surely ebb away as well as for one of Riley’s imaginary friends by the name of Bing Bong for reasons I shan’t spoil here respectively. Thus, by the time this film gets to its genuinely emotionally gripping third act, it has managed to construct its world so well that we as movie goers are able to understand both the characters, their actions, and how these actions can have an impact in the world of the movie both in good and not so good ways. Suffice it to say then that, much like the inner machinations of the human brain itself, this film in terms of the work behind the camera is able to navigate the intricacies of our minds in a beautiful and elegant yet appreciated in its level of comprehensibility manner for movie goers of all ages.

Of course, the other big component that helps this slice of cinema work on the level that it does would have to be the across-the-board top-notch work from the immensely talented cast of performers lending their vocal talents to the collection of characters in front of the camera. This starts with Amy Poehler who is brilliant as Joy. Indeed Poehler not only brings a perky demeanor and upbeat delivery that is wonderfully in synch with the character and what she is all about, but she also does a fantastic job at providing the right amount of gravitas to the moments where the film would like her to take things a bit more seriously as well. Along with the work done by Poehler, it should also be pointed out that I love the work done here by Phyllis Smith (Phyllis Vance from The Office) in the role of Sadness. I mean not only is her delivery of the lines perfectly on point for what you would expect from the character, but Phyllis also does a wonderful job at providing the character with little moments of deadpan humor as well as a plentiful amount of heart that really make this character one you, despite her namesake, actually don’t mind being around whenever she is on screen. That and the back and forth between her and Joy in this is actually fairly delightful all things considered with a resolution that is genuinely touching in the best way. Along with these two, this slice of cinema also gives us a brilliant performance from Lewis Black in the role of Anger if for no other reason than not only is he perfectly cast, but it’s also a chance for families to get to see a version of Black’s style of stand-up that he is known for albeit through a much more family-friendly lens. I also really appreciated the work done here by Bill Hader as Fear. No it’s not that much of a stretch for Hader’s considerable range as a talent, but he definitely makes the most of it. Now I do like Mindy Kaling as both an actress and as a writer, but if I’m being honest I’m not entirely sure she was the best fit for Disgust. No she doesn’t do a terrible job in the role by any means, but I just can’t shake the feeling that maybe someone like Jane Lynch would’ve been a better fit. Far and away though, the MVP in terms of casting for me has to be without a doubt the phenomenal character actor Richard Kind in the role of Bing Bong. I mean Kind has, ever since his turn as Paul Lassiter in Spin City, been one of my favorite actors to see pop up in TV or movies, but here he is downright phenomenal. Not only in showcasing for us this character’s heartwarming desire to just simply be loved and remembered by Riley again, but also in the moments where he encourages Joy not to give up and especially in his last scene which, without going into spoilers, is a moment that even had me in tears seeing it for the first time. Suffice it to say that when you also manage to incorporate winning efforts from screen icons Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan who are perfectly cast as Riley’s Mom and Dad respectively as well as Bobby Moynihan, Frank Oz, Rashida Jones, and Pixar lucky charm John Ratzenberger what you are given here is a cast that not only fit their respective roles to a t, but manage to give performances that are both reflective of that as well as elevate the already incredible movie they are a part of exponentially.

All in all and at the end of the day, is Inside Out a perfect slice of cinema? Honestly no, but darn it all if it doesn’t manage to come quite close to pulling it off. Indeed in case that wasn’t enough to say it, I really do dig the heck out of this movie dear reader. To be sure, there are a few flaws scattered about here and there, but truth be told they are definitely miniscule at best. Even with those in the back of one’s mind however, there is no denying that Inside Out proves to be another wonderful, riveting, and quite heartfelt look at how every so often there are just some things that animated cinema can accomplish that live action can’t, and truthfully maybe shouldn’t, even set out to see if they can do for themselves. Indeed the world presented to us is not only engaging and emotional in equal measure with the work done behind the camera in bringing it and the characters to life a genuine masterclass in filmmaking, but the cast of characters are all, no matter how big or small their role may be in the grand scheme of things, brought beautifully to life from a extremely well-chosen cast of performers who are all operating at the pinnacle of their respective acting abilities. Suffice it to say then dear reader that Inside Out is more than just one of the best animated films of the 2010s or for that matter another winning entry in Pixar’s filmography. Rather, it is a beautifully captivating and (for lack of a better word) emotional look at both the range of emotions within us as human beings to say nothing of how our experiences can be of the utmost importance in not only how we see life, but also in how we choose to live our lives as well that is presented in a way that will not only, in that typical Pixar style, make you smile and definitely make you cry, but will also definitely stay with you and your little movie goers for a long long time to come. Make of that what thou will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 I give Inside Out “2015” a solid 4.5 out of 5.