director Pete Docter
viewed: 06/19/2015 at Century San Francisco Centre 9 and XD, SF, CA
Pixar’s latest, Inside Out, is being touted as “the best idea that Pixar has ever had” and praised as one of the digital animation studio’s best films. And, sure, it is a return to form for Pixar, certainly the best film they’ve put out in five years, whether your measuring stick is Toy Story 3 (2010), Up (2009), WALL-E (2008), or maybe Ratatouille (2007). It is more in the veins of those films than in the less wonderful films that they’ve pumped out as they’ ve let Disney eat their creative lunch.
I’ll just say this: the idea about “the voices inside your head” embodied as individual emotions (joy, anger, fear, sadness, and disgust) isn’t so wildly original nor is its reductively considered sensibility all that complete. Disgust? One of the five primary emotions? It’s kind of problematic to reduce the primary characters of the film to single emotional range — not that they are all that limited….but still…genius idea? Okay idea maybe.
But the film works, in large part because of the performances by Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). And the world within the head, the spaces for memories, the mechanisms for storage and retrieval and removal are beautifully rendered and realized. When a 12 year old girl is suddenly hit with the challenges of a new home in a new city, and Sadness starts to taint her core memories, Joy and Sadness have to journey through the system to bring back the pieces of the girl’s persona before she runs away back to Minnesota.
Directed by Pete Docter, whose last directorial role for Pixar was in Up, it’s a Pixar film as we’ve come to expect from the company: fun characters, beautifully rendered designs, clever humor, emotional arcs, and good storytelling. Docter has been sort of the #2 director behind John Lasseter at Pixar, a solid filmmaker in that particular mold.
My guess is that the gushing reviews will sway popular opinion, enshrining Inside Out in the pantheon of Pixar films, at least in general consensus. I thought it was good, quite good, but not ever great. Still, a sizable step up for the venerable Emeryville company and a step back in the right direction. It’s kind of interesting that we’ve got a second Pixar film due this year, The Good Dinosaur (2015), which is a first. Don’t know what that will turn out to be like.
The kids liked it. Clara quite well. Felix a little more begrudgingly. Me somewhere in between.