Some of you might remember when I spent time reviewing Pixar films, and how I praised the studio for making original films, even though their most recent material has been mediocre and sequels. Inside Out is a step in the right direction, and I have to admit that it is difficult to watch this film without getting emotionally involved. My own feelings on this film are slightly mixed.
This is not to say that I didn’t like the film, but it has been a while since I have seen a movie try something as allegorical as this. I suppose that the only comparison that I can make is Osmosis Jones, but the Nostalgia Critic already discussed that, and that film was more about the physiological aspect of the inner workings of the body. Inside Out deals with the mental self. In the film, we see Riley, a girl who has just moved to San Francisco, but we also meet her inner voices who are represented by five Muppet-like chraacters: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger.
This film has a worldview that every human being has these emotions within them all working together at their mental keyboard. What isn’t very clear is if Riley has freewill and is choosing what emotion to focus on, or whether or not the motions are controlling her. I mean, the emotional archetypes take control of Riley’s keyboard every once in a while, and Riley seems to go along. Then there is a scene where the archetypes put an idea into Riley’s head, and it is said that she had to “take it”.
So it looks like it isn’t nature, nurture, or volition alone that controls Riley. So I guess this film goes out of its way to show that it doesn’t know what makes a person a person, and considering that we as humans don’t know that, maybe that is a good thing. Perhaps this is the point of the film, and there really isn’t any way I can talk about this without spoiling it. I’ll go ahead and leave a jump here in case you don’t want it spoiled for you.
The issue with this film is there is really two stories. The first is a girl moving to San Francisco, and this alone is interesting enough. Even the computer animation on this girl as a newborn is convincing, to say the least. I’ve seen films that focus on this alone, and as someone who has experienced it myself, this film doesn’t delve too deep into the issues involved.
As Riley attempts to fit in, the emotions attempt to keep her mind stable. At least, I think that is what is going on, honestly, it’s actually a little confusing to see how the natural interacts with the symbolic here. The basic jobs of the emotions seems to be dealing with memories, and they are shown as these glass balls with a color symbolizing what emotion is prominent at the time.
Apparently, there are some “core memories” that Riley taps into, and these have sprouted cities. These cities are housed near all the memories, and then there is a giant pit to represent all the dead memories. Does this sound confusing? It is. There is some narration “telling” and “showing” to explain this, and since this is not well explained, this opens up a lot of stuff that can happen.
When Riley starts school, Joy and Sadness somehow get tossed away with the bad memories, and have to work their way back to Riley’s control center. The way they get lost doesn’t seem plausible, as they just sort of get sucked into this tube that really should have had more OSHA control standards.
Yeah, that’s the film is a nutshell. From here, the film is a surreal turn for the best as Joy and Sadness meet an old imaginary friend of Riley’s named Bing Bong. The film has so much imagination as Joy and Sadness encounter one imaginative encounter after another.
What is interesting is a scene where characters fall within the subconscious, and then things get real interesting. The issue is that I’m not really certain what this film is trying to say as Joy and Sadness try to catch the Train of Thought back to the control center.
The biggest problem with this film is it is confusing as how its universe works. In the beginning, Joy and her emotional friends are shocked at seeing a moving van. Why wouldn’t they know that Riley was moving? I mean, they have a camera inside her eyes, for crying out loud.
In the end, the film is about dealing with feelings, and how feelings work with each other. It is not perfect, and a recent episode of How it Should have Ended reveals one huge hole in the plot that I won’t reveal.
However, sometimes the inconsistencies work for the film. For example, if Joy and Sadness are lost in the subconscious, does that mean that Riley loses all joy? Maybe it’s just that the memories get filed under negative, and Inside Out is just how people deal with negatives in life. This is what I see as the moral of the film: it’s okay to be sad. Also, it isn’t the logical things that are at the heart of this story, it is, in the end, the feelings is what Pixar does best.
I suppose it works, and you could easily make a series on this. I just hope that doesn’t happen or a sequel doesn’t get made.