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"Inside Out" Movie Review: Five Stars

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 "Inside Out"

Movie Review: Five Stars

By Don Gibble

A 60’s avant-garde head trip repackaged as a big slice of mainstream entertainment, “Inside Out” could easily have been called “Childhood’s End”, as it ingeniously personifies the furiously erupting sensations associated with the onset of adolescence as a bunch of emotionally competitive cartoon characters. This latest conceptually out-there creation from Pete Docter (“Monsters Inc.” and “Up”) serves up some abstractions and flights of deconstructive fancy that will most likely go over the heads of viewers with ages in the single digits. But this adventurous outing manages the great Pixar trick of operating on two levels – captivating fun for kids, disarming smarts for adults – that sets the studio apart.

Although the outward physical story of the script by Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley traces the difficult adjustment suffered by tomboyish 11-year-old hockey player Riley when she’s uprooted by her parents from an idyllic Minnesota life to an unfriendly San Francisco, the real setting is inside the girl’s head. It’s a highly combustible place, a control room staffed by the buoyant, blue-haired Joy; red, top-blowing Anger; purplish Fear; green, eye-rolling Disgust and all-blue Sadness.

The mind, as we know, is a hectic place with all sorts of things bouncing around in it, and Docter and his team have visualized it in very antiseptic, almost 60’s TV “Star Trek” fashion, as a room centered around a control panel and lined with shelves and tubes where memories and thoughts are stored. Joy has always held sway in Riley’s heretofore happy life; but now, faced with a depressing new home, an unfamiliar school, no friends and the loss of her old hockey team, Sadness, with assists from the others, is definitely ascendant.

It all flashes by very quickly, but at night control passes over to the long-term memory bank (which is hilariously seen at one point being divested of such content as piano lessons and the names of   U.S. presidents), and there is a literal train of thought. As it is, Joy and Sadness take a trip down the rabbit hole of Riley’s fraying psyche, which leads into very foreign and internalized territory as far as mainstream animation is concerned. Externally, Riley is slipping fast, withdrawing from her solicitous and caring parents, rebelling against her new surroundings, becoming sullen and, for the first time in her life, is genuinely depressed, all of which leads her to plot running away from home.

Although this journey through the psychic and emotional underworld could have been a lot more harrowing and hellish than it is, it will still probably appear perilous enough to real kids younger than Riley, who have never suffered through a crisis before.

Amy Pohler’s energetic voicing of Joy dominated the dialogue, and quite agreeably so. All the other voice actors blend in nicely without being too eccentric – Bill Hader portrays Fear, Mindy Kaling is Disgust, Lewis Black is Anger and Phyllis Smith is the unassertive but undeniable Sadness. Among the “real” characters, Kaitlyn Dias plays Riley, Diane Lane is Mom and Kyle MacLachlan is Dad. In a cheeky move on the part of Bay Area-based Pixar, San Francisco is, for once portrayed in a negative light. As usual with the company’s fare, there are plenty of blink-and-they’re-gone jokes, including the depiction of the part of the brain that creates dreams as a movie studio. In the end, “Inside Out” has to be one of the most conceptually trippy films ever made as a PG-rated popcorn picture for the geenral public. Be prepared to be amazed!