Inside Out

Visually on, emotionally off — most of the time.

A tiring, extremely verbose movie. Barraging you with words, too-coordinated movement of figures/objects in space (this is animation — a showy territory), and painting the world in luminant, glittery and saturated colors (when inside the characters’ heads; reality was more muted, textured and non-shiny, particularly when the main girl’s condition turned depressed). A flick about emotions in one’s head, which was near-completely out of tune with this reviewer’s emotionality and sense of humor (obviously, such judgements are subjective and will vary, depending on a person and their mental make-up). The film approached a slightly moving territory only in the finale (where it reasserted the importance of sadness in the altar of emotions), and my laugh was coaxed at exactly one scene (a dog’s body accidentally unraveling in a girl’s dream). Adults and children at the screening laughed a lot, though — especially at the interminable whinings of a blue character (which I found irritating, lame and cheap, to be fair — but who’s to judge).

The boundary-pushing, ear-splitting prolixity came from a blue-haired female creature of thinness and effervescent/glowy yellow mien, Joy. Her eagerness and insistence on happiness, no matter what, were an overkill — intentionally so. Sadness was blue-skinned, fat, short, slow, with sorry-state articulation (plus a habit of whining, constantly — as mentioned above). She was suppressed by Joy, most of the time. You wonder where such ideas for emotion embodiment came from — they’re curious, to say the least. Anger was male, red and stout; Disgust — female, green and a mean-girlie; Fear — male, violet, stick-thin. Those creatures inside protagonists’ heads represented five core human emotions —as per this film’s assumptions. Which were inspired by Paul Ekman’s theory of emotion, with a pointed omission of his surprise (Ekman’s system counted six states). The head of the film’s heroine wasn’t a mess —she was a completely ordinary, if way too emotional, pre-teenage girl. She was irritating, too, beyond the limits of your patience. It was hard to empathize with her life dissatisfaction (you see, she just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco — and is unhappy about it, poor girl; her new home is less comfortable than the one left in the small town — a drama, incarnated).

As is expected of an animated movie (especially Pixar’s), the film was bursting with visual ideas. The creative playfulness, the dazzle of world-building (fluidly realized) — these are the reasons to attend the movie. The inner workings of the heroine’s brain were structured with invention (a control center; memory shelves; personality islands; dream soundstages; a train of thought; imagination land). Some of the ideas and characters were a miss, of course (a fat, pinky, good-natured and imaginary lost friend — hard to stand him; a princessy movie-star unicorn — just awesome). A written review is no place for the appreciation of technical and intellectual wizardry in play there. (Which is why writing about film is pointless and you know it). Animators’ achievements do need to be lauded, though, which is done right now. A favorite of mine was the disintegration of three characters — upon entering the land of imagination — into figurative abstractions (their forms turned into three-dimensional cubist paintings), then 2-d objects (flat, basic geometric shapes) and finally, their transformation into simple lines, which crawled like worms.

The film went into trouble of illustrating the insides of not only the main heroine, but also her parents — briefly, occasionally. Which allowed for a nice comparison of each individual’s varied emotional landscape (dad’s — sports-military themed; mom’s — office-y, very middle-agey; both quite stereotypical; both characters were exactly that). End-credits contained scenes of insides of the brains of side characters, who were met throughout the movie (a pizza joint clerk; a cat on the street; a dog). A rare, truly entertaining sequence in the movie. Like most computer animations, this one had an impenetrable artificiality about it — needless to say, it stems from everything in it being man-made, from scratch, in the over-controlled digital realm. There goes unfunny showboating of characters, and a sense of careful crafting/editing of material so as to be appropriate for children of all ages. This appeasing, too-eager-to-please approach is genuinely tough to appreciate.

The screening was preceded by Pixar’s newest short film, Lava. About lavas in love (volcano islands, precisely). Male island was fat, had a dimwitted look to his face — to make him endearing, one imagines; female volcano was lean, and hotter in every way. The tone of the piece was sappy — in a good way — and notable for a narration carried by one continuous song with a repetitive guitar arrangement. A time unwasted — which cannot be said about a few passages in the main course, the flick under review.