The Bock’s Office: Glad, sad, mad and more are all part of ‘Inside Out’
June 25, 2015
If Jiminy Cricket had any actual power as a conscience, his story might have gone a lot quicker. Then again, when you're given a computer console that can make someone cry, grin or throw a tantrum like in "Inside Out," it can get even trickier.
If you go…
"Inside Out," rated PG
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 94 minutes
Starring the voices of: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader and Lewis Black
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Typical 11-year-old Riley Anderson (voice of Kaitlyn Dias) is a happy, healthy Minnesota girl, but just like anyone, her mental state requires constant upkeep. Within her mind is a group of emotions that guides her daily decision-making: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).
While Joy, Fear, Anger and Disgust each have a good system worked out for when they need to help out their human friend, Sadness only seems to cause Riley misery, which is why the rest of them keep her out of the way as much as possible.
The emotions have their work cut out for them when Riley's parents (Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan) must relocate to San Francisco with her in tow. Hoping to turn the big life change of a new house and a new school into a positive experience, Joy takes charge, only for Sadness to accidentally ruin a pivotal moment in Riley's day by tinging it with sorrow.
When the two try to fix the mistake, they wind up transported to the long-term memory, far away from their central headquarters with no way to get back. Meanwhile, as Anger, Fear and Disgust try to run things alone, Riley's whole perspective starts to shift as her feelings go out of wack.
Picture a mix of Tinkerbell and Pollyanna with Joan Jett hair, and you've got an inkling of Joy, voiced with boundless enthusiasm by Poehler. The golden-hued sprite who's been with Riley since birth only wants what’s best for the kid, usually with some unrealistic expectations about keeping a smile on her face.
Smith gives a whole new meaning to feeling blue as dangerously depressing Sadness, whose defeatist attitude keeps her from being much help as she and Joy try to get things back to normal without wreaking havoc on Riley's life.
Of course, the rest of the gang shows that operating purely off panic, fury and revulsion only results in disaster, even though nebbishy Fear, literal hothead Anger and sarcasm-personified Disgust are trying their best.
And, no, Anger, you can't make the girl curse whenever you get irked.
The animated inner workings of the human body have been done before — anyone remember the anatomical adventures of "Osmosis Jones?" — but leave it to Pixar to do it better.
Pete Docter, the head of "Monsters, Inc." and "Up," gets the studio's name back to its standard as the highest quality in the cartoon game with the best release since "Toy Story 3." Visually, it offers a wonderful contrast between the brightness of the emotions' usual surroundings and the dark recesses of the rest of the mind, but it's how it's filled that's even more impressive.
Psychological concepts like a train of thought represented by a choo-choo, the subconscious as a dungeon for the worst of memories — including a demented party clown that even those who don't suffer from coulrophobia would want to avoid — don't take a lot of work at the drawing board, but then there's Imagination Land, home of Graham Cracker Castle and other wondrous creations.
Let's not forget Riley's long-lost imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind), an elephant-cat-dolphin hobo made of cotton candy, who serves as tour guide for Joy and Sadness. We want a ride on that rocket-powered wagon that's fueled by song!
Getting to the real message, the construct of the human psyche as a fragile environment that needs everything firing on all cylinders to keep a person functional is a well developed one for Pixar, who show us that you have to have balance in your moods and that even perfect opposites like Joy and Sadness can work together to make complex memories in the confusing time known as "growing up."
"Inside Out" shows us every part of the rainbow of feelings can and should have its time in the spotlight and gives us all a chance to feel the happy, the sad and everything else. You'll cheer, you'll cry, there's no way you won't feel something.
By the way, you may not be as outraged as Anger and Disgust, but can we all agree that broccoli on pizza is NEVER OK?