From the clever title to the animation, the script, and the actors, Inside Out is a positive tale about how to deal with emotions. The primary thought coming through is that negative emotions like sadness, anger, and fear are healthy and need to be expressed in order to get the “bad” that’s inside neutralized or to use one (such as anger) to accomplish a task. At one point, Anger (Black) blows fire out his head to break a window in order to rescue Joy and Sadness who have just been hurled splat against it from the outside.) Joy (Poehler), the leader of the group instinctively learns how to deal with Sadness (Smith), which I recognized as what a therapist will do with someone who is depressed (e.g., unfailing encouragement, patience, and positive reinforcement for every successive approximation toward self-confidence and effectiveness). Joy also discovers the value of sympathy in comforting someone who has experienced a loss, as when Sadness listens empathically to Bing Bong’s (Kind) woes and he begins to feel much better. Upshot: Joy is not always the answer to an emotional problem.
I am impressed that Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen, directors, came up with the basic idea of having actors voice the emotions that a little girl goes through from the time of her birth. Like an ego with executive functions, “central station” (the embodied emotions) does what it can to orchestrate the goings-on inside Riley’s (Dias) head, modifying Riley’s reactions and experience to maintain balance. An important memory bank is kept to pull out those that might be helpful in a specific situation, and more complex “personality islands”—like “Family” are also available.
This is a high tension film, and I was a bit weary by the end with all the close calls and constant urgency to rescue Riley, who has been traumatized by a move from the home she had always known to one that is so different and strange. Her parents (Diane Lane, Kyla McLachlan) are understanding, but overlook the fact that she is having a difficult time adjusting. Understandable, in that the father’s business is high stress, and the mother has to accommodate to a much smaller house (Minnesota to San Francisco) and different ethos altogether, like broccoli pizza!
I am curious about how much of the principles of this film get through to children and how much they are simply reacting to the colorful characters and animation. There was applause at the end of the screening I attended, but there was also a lot of restlessness, noise, and babies crying while the film was running. Presumably, it will appeal more to those older than seven or eight; I would guess that children younger than that will lose interest because so much of the film rests on the dialog, which is more about abstract concepts.
A fascinating trip inside the brain of a child.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland