As it is with anyone, Riley is dominated by her emotions, the little voices in her head, but in the world of Inside Out, this is quite literal. In Riley’s mind are five characters–Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger–that influence how Riley acts in the world around her. Joy, the first character in Riley’s mind, is the personality that makes Riley who she is and helps Riley have a sunny disposition in life; in fact, each character does have a role, except nobody seems to know what Sadness is there for–why should there be sadness in a young girl’s life, after all? When Riley and her parents move from Minnesota to California, the five emotions try to navigate a new home and school. But the five characters, and, by extension, Riley are thrown into turmoil when in a scuffle between Joy and Sadness, not only are the two rooted from the headquarters in which they work, they also dislodge Riley’s core memories that form the islands that form her personality! What happens next? Watch the movie to find out..
Amy Poehler glows (pun intended) as Joy, one of our main characters. Exhibiting a full range of emotions and types of happiness, she is the burst of sunbeam of the other four characters; her voice is warm and young, though also mature. Sadness, voiced by Phyllis Smith, brings the right combination of comedy and, well, a depressed demeanour to her character. The other characters are also very well played, by Bill Hader (the frantic, overreactive Fear), Mindy Kaling (fashion-obsessed Disgust), Lewis Black (the curmudgeonly Anger), with a special mention to Richard Kind, who plays Riley’s forgotten imaginary friend, Bing Bong. Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan provide the voices of Riley’s parents. Despite the stylised animations of the characters, the voices really brought them to life and gave them the believability that brought me into the psychological and emotional journey of the movie.
Two observations come to mind: that of the characters and the movie’s surprising complexity. The Disney/Pixar movie, directed by Pete Docter (also the director of Up) and Ronnie del Carmen (the story director of Up), makes sure that the female characters are not stereotypically girly or that the male characters are stereotypically male. Joy, Sadness, and Disgust aren’t in puffy dresses (Joy and Disgust are in green dresses, Sadness in an oversized blue turtleneck) but more importantly show that women can express these emotions and still be girls. In the same vein, the two male characters in Riley’s mind, Anger and Fear, but more importantly the latter, can express the same emotions and still be male; for Fear in particular, it is a social faux-pas in Western culture to show fear. (What would have been interesting, though, would to have made Anger female and Sadness male, for instance, since anger is stereotypically male and to show that these emotions can be expressed healthily by the opposite sex.) The girl on the outside, Riley, isn’t stereotypically girly as well: the tween is a good hockey player, but is also has a burgeoning interest in boys.
As for the complexity of the movie, while a young child will be able to understand the plot of the movie, most of its deeper themes might go over his or her head. It manages to show the scariness and sadness of growing up but simultaneously that it’s okay to do so. The movie takes quite a dark turn for the second half, with some scenes that are scary and sad for young children, so adults should come not only to supervise, but also to enjoy a movie and recapture a bit of childhood. Developed with in-depth research of psychology and emotions, the movie is sophisticated among films in general chock-full of toilet humour and aimlessly happy.
An emotional and heartwarming movie, deeply thoughtful and a fascinating exploration of a young girl’s mind, Inside Out is a film not to be missed.