A Walk on the Mind Side: A Spoiler Free Review of Inside Out

Okay, before I get to my review, let me just take the time to say a few words…

Nyah nyah ni nyah nyah I got to watch Inside Out before yoooooou doooooo. Phhhhhbbbbtttt! Nyah nyah! Ha Ha[1]!

Inside Out is, as the box says, a major emotion picture.  It is not a Fantastic Voyage style movie about how the brain works, but is more of a shallow Journey to the Centre of the Mind.

Inside Out follows the emotions of Riley, an 11 year old girl.  More specifically, it follows the representations of her emotions, in the form of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust as they work together and sometimes cross purposes to control her actions and help her through her day to day life.  However, Riley’s emotions become dangerously unbalanced when both Joy and Sadness get lost somewhere in long-term memory, leaving her with only Fear, Anger and Disgust, who have to figure out how to get her through a recent family move to San Francisco.

Riley's Emotions (from the left) - Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear and Sadness

Riley’s Emotions (from the left) – Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear and Sadness

Inside Out is primarily about our relationship with our emotions.  A lot of thought has gone into the making of this movie.  In order to give the most accurate depiction of the mind, Pixar consulted with both Dr Paul Ekman, a pioneer in the study of emotions, and Dr Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.  The subject matter of the movie is very heavy and is treated with great respect.

Every part of this movie – the music, the staging, the lighting and even the voice acting – is designed to evoke an emotional reaction from the audience.  From the very first scene in the movie, the viewer is encouraged to empathise with the characters, experiencing the feeling of joy from a baby looking at its parents for the very first time, or the despair from a child missing home.

The voice acting is pretty good, by the way, with a large number of Saturday Night Live veterans lending their voices to the different emotions.  Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith do especially good jobs bringing emotional life to main characters Joy and Sadness and I was particularly pleased with the casting for Anger, who is played by professional Daily Show angry man, Lewis Black.

MUMMY WARNING:  This is not a movie for little ones, not because it has anything violent or sexual in it, but simply because the subject matter is so dense that it literally cannot be comprehended by anyone under the age of 7.

I may not have kids, but I did notice that after the movie ended, there were a lot of excitably chattering tween aged kids (8-12), a lot of quiet and thoughtful teenagers and adults (13 and up) and a LOT of completely inconsolable little children (7 and under).  What happens in this movie STAYS HAPPENED.  It does not magically get better.  It STAYS HAPPENED.

This is a movie for tweens.  Like many other works by Pixar, this is a movie that needs to be watched and then seriously talked about afterwards.  It is a movie about growing up and getting in touch with ones emotions, but it is also a movie about the bad things that can happen if you don’t. Given the mature way that the subject matter is handled, I think that it is a movie that HAS to be watched.

And, it is beautiful and good, a bit like watching the beginning of Up – poignant and sad but hopeful.  I hope to see more of this sort of work from Pixar.

Inside Out is already in theatres in Australia (Nyah!), but it will be showing in Singapore from 27th August 2015.


[1] Australia very rarely if not almost never gets movies before Singapore does, so when we do, I think it’s only fair that I get to lord it over everyone else every once in a while.

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