Finally got the courage to go to a late night original version projection. You Americans have no idea how easy you have it.
Pete Docter (2015)
I had a hunch as I was watching Inside Out
. Before starting this review I promptly Googled Pixar's filmography to verify it and I now have confirmation. Inside Out
is Pixar's funniest movie. By far. There is a continuous stream of jokes unlike anything I can remember the studio making bar maybe Monsters University
that is akin to what Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
does. Unlike it and Monsters U
however, Inside Out
is not primarily a comedy but a traditional Pixar style emotion fuelled narrative (yes, I know comedies have narratives too ; I still make the distinction).
The jokes are not only numerous but good in that hearty laugh way that is so satisfying. Most of them can be understood by any viewer, children included. They rely on some very clever writing and lots of behavioural humour that at no moment feels exaggerated or forced. In fact, everything feels quite in tone and each joke stems naturally from the situation at hand. It really is delightfully done.
As an aside, some other jokes are specifically aimed at a more mature audience -particularly the wonderful Chinatown reference- as is often the case in such movies. Such winks to the adult Pixar fans are always welcome. I am sure some children will be surprised when they revisit this movie a few years from now.
The main strength of the movie however is in the intelligence of the psychic world it builds. Inside Out quite ambitiously sets about representing the inner workings of our minds through a landscape administered by psychological processes. Our long term memory is an enormous labyrinth that stores countless recollections that darken as they are forgotten until they are vacuumed into a dark inescapable pit of forgetfulness. The unconscious lies dormant in a sealed cave ; our dreams are concocted in a movie studio out of memories ; the land of imagination borders the abyss of oblivion where forgotten inventions are destined to fall. The film is a marvel of allegory and everything is seamlessly explained or intuitively presented to ensure even the movie's youngest audiences will understand how this mindworld works.
Don't get me wrong however, this is not the biggest breakthrough in psychology since Freud's contributions to beards. It remains simplistic and many things are all but ignored. There seems to be no room for intellectual convictions and reason in this portrayal. Our every action is the result of the interplay of five emotions : joy, disgust, fear, sadness and anger. Even allowing for the fact that those five can stand in for all their subtle variations of degree and nature where did love go ? And I am sure that there are others that should be present. Hate ? Hope ? Frustration ?
I was able to set aside those omissions because the point of the movie is not to dissert about psycho-neurology and because it provides a context, for me and much more importantly for children, to think about their personalities in a compelling way. Despite being patently wrong about some things it is an opportunity to get insight on ourselves. What is our dominant emotion ? What are our core memories (again, I have a problem with the fact that our entire personality could be based on a handful of memories but let's not fret on that) ? What are our personality islands ? A movie that entertains while teaching us about ourselves. Is there anything quite as wonderful ?
And the movie does entertain. Between the worldbuilding and the jokes we get to follow Joy and Sadness' peripeteia as they try to get back to their control room. Their adventures are fun and takes us through unexpected places and allow for the discovery of the mindworld. I only regret that the plot remains too linear. The quest is the same from start to finish and the entire journey is a succession of attempts to get to the control room, everyone thwarted until the last one. Still, their diversity camouflages the simplicity of the narrative devices and my inner curmudgeon was the only one grumbling in my control room while the other four emotions were quite content.
The animation is fantastic as always and if you want a testimony to the care Pixar takes in all it makes look at the emotions. Their skin is not soft and solid like that of humans. Joy's yellow body is constantly slightly erupting the lightcloud-like stuff she is made off in the manner of a lava lamp or a solar eruption. The character is as effervescent as the feeling itself.
By the way, these are emotions who have feelings and thoughts themselves. In an age where everyone seems to be making meta-movies, Pixar has ignored the trend and gone one step further : it came up with meta-emotions.
A final word about the film's message that, unlike its constructions, troubles me. It seems to say that Sadness is a condition for Joy. Important joyous memories have a sad underpinning because the person only became happy after having been rescued by others from a negative situation. This is not only wrong, it is dangerous. Joy can exist in and of itself. It is okay to be sad about something but preaching a usefulness of that feeling risks creating a search for it. That emotions like disgust and fear have an evolutionary purpose of keeping us alive is correct but that doesn't mean every emotion has a purpose or that purpose is positive. I fear Inside Out
may unwillingly encourage self-pity and mooning. 8.5/10 - A Pixar best
Still lava the movie despite everything.