Inside Out the Feels Machine

A life governed by joy. Sounds pretty swell, doesn’t it? That’s the way life is for 11-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) whose emotional circuit board is governed by the positive, glowing, glass-half-full Joy (Amy Poehler). Things generally seem pretty darn super, until Riley’s family packs up and moves from hockey-loving Minnesota to broccoli-infested San Francisco. Whether brought on by the move or those bipolar teenybopper years, Sadness (Phyllis Smith) suddenly feels the urge to touch everything in Riley’s head, infecting joyful memories with a touch of gloom. Whoops. Joy is none too happy about this (figuratively speaking) and in trying to remedy the situation gets sucked out of the “head” office with Riley’s core memories and Sadness in toe. Without the core memories, Riley goes from a happy, goofy, hockey lover to a confused blank slate without a personality. It’s up to Joy and Sadness to return the core memories before the remaining emotions – Fear, Anger, and Disgust – make some very poor decisions that will change Riley forever.

Inside Out is funny, but it’s also sad and angry. And disgusting… and fearful. Talk about an emotional roller coaster (this film includes actual roller coasters ridden by emotions). When Joy is doing her thing you feel nothing but pleasant feelings all around like warm, fuzzy, bunny hugs. When Sadness goes full pout-mode, however, the result is me sitting in a pool of my own tears. Inside Out, when it turns on the feels, is that kind of sadness only Disney can produce. The kind that makes you happy and heavyhearted at the same time. Like when you heard Carl’s lonely story in Up. Or when the toys found a new home in Toy Story 3. Or (here’s the winner) when Ariel said goodbye to her father in The Little Mermaid

…Excuse me. I need a minute…

Someone hit the joy button! The sweet thing about Inside Out is that you get to see it through Sadness’ and Joy’s eyes. There was no workshop time lost on creativity either. The inside of Riley’s head isn’t tissue, circuits, and blood vessels; it’s a theme park of Imagination Land and Dream Productions, bisected by the Train of Thought (which occasionally wanders off) and the tunnel of Abstract Thought. Everything is so brilliantly and colourfully mapped out that you want to spend the full length of the movie wandering through French Fry Forest. Conflict is always present, however, as the islands that define Riley’s personality crumble in the background without the core memories to secure their foundations. Inside Out is a magical journey that makes you re-think what makes you You.

The characters are also brilliantly designed. I’d say they are one-dimensional, but that’s kind of the point. Fear (Bill Hader) faces every day with a list of concerns and a pocket full of panic, while Anger (Lewis Black) frequently boils over, and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is captain of the fashion police. Joy and Sadness are a bit more complex, however, as they grow to understand one another. Joy is in a constant battle to lighten Sadness’ mood, but finds the most common response to her efforts is a melancholic face-plant or memorably fun story about the dog that died. In the end, every emotion must learn to be a little more open to the influence of others and figure out how to enjoy a happy-sad song or be angry at something gross… Also known as your teenage years.

Inside Out is all about the feels. Pixar has abandoned the anthropomorphic and moved on to the metaphysical. The childhood days of resolute I’m happy. Now I’m sad. Now I’m happy are gone and the confusing, sensitive, melting pot of teenage years is on the horizon. How long can Riley survive without a personality? How long can an imaginary friend wander around in long-term memory before he’s needed again? Inside Out is an adorable family movie that made my entire theatre of adult viewers laugh and cry like PMS-ing 20-somethings. It is a 9/10 and a must-see film.

Inside Out trailer.

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One thought on “Inside Out the Feels Machine

  1. Pingback: The Shining Orchestral Massacre | Plenty of Popcorn

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