by D.W. Lundberg

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Disney/Pixar's Inside Out tells the story of 11- year-old Riley Andersen, uprooted from her home in Minnesota and carted off to San Francisco, where her father just landed a new job. On the cusp of adolescence, Riley is completely unprepared for the mental and emotional turmoil the move is about to cause herself and her family; her parents, likewise, can't understand why their little girl, once so bright and open and the light of their lives, suddenly turns so irritable and distant. Ultimately, Riley is able to reconcile her feelings and make up with Mom and Dad (SPOILER), and they live in perfect harmony together forever after. All this, of course, is just the springboard for the really interesting stuff, in which we learn that Riley's emotions are sentient beings operating a giant control room inside her head. There's Joy, green-yellow and eternally optimistic; Anger, who's always on the verge of blowing his red brick top; Fear, a bug-eyed purple nebbish; Disgust, who can barely hide the look of disdain on her face; and Sadness, mopey and morose and blue. So far, Joy has been Riley's dominant personality trait, until circumstances force Sadness to challenge that position, and when both Joy and Sadness are ejected from headquarters and plunged deeper into the recesses of Riley's brain, it's up to Anger, Fear, and Disgust to keep up appearances - with often disastrous results.

Suffice it to say Inside Out is unlike anything Pixar has ever attempted before - eye-popping and funny and heartfelt, yes, but clearly conceived as a metaphor for the way our emotions sometimes get the better of us... and how our children learn to cope with those emotions during their formative years, much to the chagrin of their parents. It's an idea rife with dramatic possibilities, which director Pete Docter (Up) and co-screenwriters Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley are consistently able to mine for comedy and visual gold. (I haven't even begun to describe Riley's "Personality Islands," or the color-coded translucent orbs in which her memories are "stored" and then carted off to Long Term Memory when she sleeps, or Bing Bong, or the stopovers in Imagination Land or - my personal favorite - Abstract Thought, where the characters are rendered as cubist shapes that would make Picasso proud.)