Cannes Review: 'Inside Out' is a Stellar Return to Form for Pixar
by Marco Cerritos
May 21, 2015
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. The Pixar brand has lately been tarnished with unnecessary sequels and sub-par original fare making fans wonder if the magic has run out of the powerhouse. After all, this is the company that created classics like Toy Story, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Wall-E so after witnessing their recent output in the last few years, a cause for concern would make sense. The good news is the drought is over and Pixar has come roaring back with their latest Inside Out, which premiered in Cannes. It's an adventure built inside the mind of an eleven-year-old girl with her emotions as main characters. It's fast, funny and deeply touching in a way that will entertain kids and sucker punch adults.
Pixar director Pete Docter, who last made Up for the studio, is directing once again (with Ronnie Del Carmen assisting as co-director) and that previous film had the disadvantage of peaking after the five minute mark. That first segment in Up is some of the best storytelling to come out of any studio in a long time but the rest of the film had a hard time living up to that. Inside Out is an emotional roller-coaster and essentially the first five minutes of Up stretched out to feature-length.
Eleven-year-old Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is our protagonist and we're introduced to her as she's living life in Minnesota and being an ordinary kid. The camera then zooms in and we meet the emotions inside her head, each with a distinct color and purpose to keep Riley balanced and alert. The voices of these feelings are Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Bill Hader as Fear, Lewis Black as Anger and Mindy Kaling as Disgust. Up to this point all five have worked together in perfect harmony with Joy dominating the young girl's brain activity and the other emotions playing supporting parts when necessary.
A monkey wrench is thrown into Riley's life when her mom and dad (voiced by Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) decide to uproot the family from their Minnesota hamlet to San Francisco. The transition is hard and city life takes some getting used to for the young one, triggering a flood of emotions and turmoil inside her head. Suddenly Joy isn't the preeminent emotion and Fear and Sadness look to dominate instead. Docter uses internal squabbling between the five emotions to communicate to the audience not only what Riley is thinking but what she is likely to do next. Like most of Pixar's best output, the outer layer is played for fun and laughs but digging beneath the surface exposes deeper thoughts that will challenge and entertain adult minds as well.
For example, inside Riley's brain we see more than just her emotions. We see how her best memories and dreams are created and stored. They're handled with delicate care and most of this will fly past young children but older viewers will pick up on carefully placed Easter eggs. The human mind is rarely depicted this well and the only recent example that comes close is the memory warehouse sequence from Lawrence Kasdan's Dreamcatcher (believe me, I wish I had a better example too). Another fabulous touch from Docter is when we quickly and casually go inside other character's heads to see what they are thinking. Riley is our guide through this story but when we focus on other characters and see that their lives are dominated by fear and other emotions it's a beautiful and very relatable touch.
Inside Out is a true return to form for Pixar and I couldn't be happier. I know sequels pay the bills but original creations and risk-taking like this are the things that will continue to cement the studio's legacy. The film is anchored by Pixar alumni from the aforementioned Docter to composer Michael Giacchino whose lively score is one more gem in his Pixar output. Kids will enjoy Pixar's Inside Out, but I suspect adults will get the most out of this challenging and fun adventure inside our minds.
Marco's Cannes 2015 Rating: A
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