Pixar’s latest effort “Inside Out” premiered out of competition at Cannes yesterday to high critical acclaim. Directed by Pete Docter (“Monsters Inc.”, “Up”), “Inside Out” is set in the mind of a young girl named Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) where five emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) – try to guide her through new surroundings after Riley is uprooted from her Midwestern home. Many critics say this is Pixar’s best film in years, but some wonder if its adult themes about allowing sadness into life and letting go of childhood may go over the heads of children, its primary audience. Nevertheless, “Inside Out” has a winning formula of impressive voice talent, eye-popping animation, and a story grounded in the realities of growing up.
Reviews of “Inside Out”
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
“Sadness is necessary” is maybe not the most kid-friendly message, but that sentiment, cleverly, movingly expressed in Pixar’s latest film, “Inside Out,” at least feels very French. So it’s fitting that this thoughtful and sprightly movie premiered out of competition here at the Cannes Film Festival today. Like the best of the sterling animation house’s films, “Inside Out” comes laden with a pretty grown-up theme — as we age, we have to accept sad or painful things as valuable parts of the human experience — but packages it in bright hues and antic wit that will keep children engaged. With its quite literally cerebral bent, I think “Inside Out” might have some trouble fully connecting with younger kids, but grown-ups are likely to shed more than a few tears and give some knowing nods as this wistful little film plays out.
Emily Yoshida, The Verge
“Inside Out” is clearly made from the perspective of a parent, and I can’t hold that against it — Riley’s emotions, especially Joy, are like secondary parents, watching her and rooting for her and playing back her memories with unconditional affection. But I wonder how this film will play for actual children, aka its primary audience, and how much Docter’s wildly abstract, candy-colored visual design will delight vs. confound them. Much of it, I suppose, will look familiar — I still remember imagining jelly bean-like workers living in my stomach when I was very young, which were present in almost unsettling verisimilitude in Riley’s long-term memory. And there are enough clever references to very concrete, real-world experiences (a jingle for a gum commercial that keeps being summoned for no particular reason, the maintenance workers who unsentimentally clear out unused memories like piano lessons and phone numbers) to keep it from flying off the rails. I hope its real, quite sophisticated lesson — that it’s okay to feel things other than happiness sometimes, and that all our emotions help us grow up — comes through all the bouncing marbles and glitter showers and rainbow pony princesses.
Peter Debruge, Variety
Could “Inside Out” be Pixar’s best movie? Frankly, that question is almost beside the point. Objectively speaking, several of the studio’s previous films work better in terms of character appeal or narrative accomplishment (though when it comes to cartoons, playing favorites is inevitably a subjective game). In terms of its ambitious underlying concept, however, “Inside Out” blows the others away, going beyond the screen to become something audiences will carry around for the rest of their days — not as tie-in merchandise or spinoff theme parks (although there will inevitably be plenty of both), but as an elegant and iconic visual metaphor for understanding their own emotions, and empathizing with others’.
Kaleem Aftab, Independent
This is what I imagine a Pixar animation would be like if Alfred Hitchcock was sitting in the director’s chair. It’s a connection that is tacitly acknowledged by a “Vertigo”-inspired film poster that appears in Dream Productions – a world that exists inside our minds, where our dreams are made on movie sets. Pixar’s most ambitious, imaginative and adult film takes a look at the emotions that control our wellbeing.
Pete Hammond, Deadline
Eleven-year-old Riley is upset because her family had to up and leave her Midwest roots and move to San Francisco. This puts her emotions into overdrive, trying to deal with her ever changing moods. That’s right these emotions are the stars of the film and seen in the form of characters named Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). They operate from a control panel at the “headquarters” inside her head. And of course, they all disagree on how to deal with these life-changing events, eventually sending Joy and Sadness out of headquarters and into their weird adventures that are among the most visually creative seen in a Pixar film.
Charles Gant, Screen Daily
With most of the story of “Inside Out” playing out inside Riley’s mind – the child’s eyes providing the emotion-themed characters’ view of the outside world – the film offers ample scope for the creativity of the filmmaking team. And that opportunity is effectively exploited, as we gradually discover a highly evolved interior landscape, which includes various personality islands (initially defined by friendship, family, honesty, goofball play and Riley’s Midwest-earned enthusiasm for ice hockey), a literally depicted Train of Thought, as well as such destinations as Dream Production and Imagination Land.
Jordan Hoffman, Esquire
The opening act devoted to explaining how the brain and memory work is very inspired, on par with Docter’s earlier home run “Monsters, Inc.” The filmmakers have thought of everything, from how dreams work, to the sudden onset of ideas, how trains of thought run, ways we return to “Goofball Island,” and, perhaps most importantly, why stupid chewing-gum jingles get stuck in your head. So it takes a moment to recognize there’s a second, wholly creative idea at play here. The other emotions, like Sadness and Anger, aren’t trying to hijack Riley’s behavior. This isn’t Oscar the Grouch. The goal that everyone is working toward, including Riley’s parents (or, should I say, the emotions inside their heads), is for Riley to be happy. However, the other emotions just can’t get her there. They aren’t saboteurs, they just aren’t equipped. They need Joy. Sadness just does things Sadness’ way. She touches a memory and changes its color, forever altering how Riley behaves in the real world.
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
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. What this looks like from the inside is a turbulent, decomposing landscape traversed by an increasingly desperate Joy and her ever-present companion Sadness, whose exile has seen Disgust, Fear and Anger completely assume control of Riley. The outcasts endure a perilous journey during which the physical representations of Riley’s idyllic childhood all come toppling down and the illusions of innocence, essentially represented by a kid-friendly elephant (with odd accoutrements from other critters), must be left behind.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
Pete Docter’s new animation “Inside Out” does not deliver that shock of the new which was so stunning in the Pixar heyday of the last decade — all the dazzling technical spectacle of detail, colour and light which had us gobsmacked, and which we now take utterly for granted. This movie is a sweet-natured coming-of-age comedy, a kind of tween-transition crisis, though with a fundamentally sunny Disneyfied worldview. It hasn’t anything as genuinely emotionally devastating as “Up,” or the subtlety and inspired subversion of “Monsters Inc.” and the “Toy Stories” which it certainly resembles at various stages. But it is certainly a terrifically likeable, ebullient and seductive piece of entertainment, taken at full-throttle. There is that sheen of pure professionalism that I associate with its executive producer and presiding deity, John Lasseter.