Review: Inside Out

It’s kinda hard for a movie like this to be the one you figure on writing reviews with straight out the gate. You risk unduly HANGING the next 6 months’ worth out of some stupid ‘objectivity’ calculus. Really though, your ‘joy’ aspect does fire real hard on Inside Out. That’s one bright spark in amongst the opaque dreck of other CG-fat expositions hammering hard at a tired, tired fructose-fired neuron. Now I’m tempted to make up lost time and wail like an impotent dummy at the billion dollar march of bigger meteorites, bigger muscles and bigger mutants but I’ll spare that litre of cortisol for another day (Ant Man appropriate?). There are two basic ways Inside Out fundamentally differs.

Structurally: It’s largely set in the mind of an 11 year old girl driven fairly collaboratively by her 5 emotions (Fear, Disgust, Joy, Anger and Sadness). Together they manage how young Riley weaves and stores memories, each recorded on spheres coloured for their associated emotion (disaster threatens when Sadness reluctantly develops the temptation to touch and ‘taint’ the spheres, around the time Riley moves to a new city). It checks in with the corresponding parental devices now and then but it amounts to a road movie to her Joy and Sadness. It involves no start in a shiny lab or classified G-Man agency, then to a jeopardised city, then space, then God firing divine palm-lasers at a galactic repto-cyborg hybrid (apologies Scientologists). It’s an internal voyage between geographic & architectural metaphors of her waking hours, dreams, train-of-thought, imagination, etc.

But I’m making this sound too mechanical, its movements are so light touch. You needn’t actively scratch your head over every detail for significance. Weird as it may sound, pretentious maybe, I found thinking about Inside Out wasn’t just what I was doing in my head; every well strung scene’s kinesis was thought in action. Let’s park that idea though. No joke or ‘landmark’ is milked and little symbolic relevance spoon-fed but there’s a fair amount for even the youngest, card-carrying silly-billies. Here’s where we should thank the natural and honest voicework of Amy Poehler (Joy). Though it’s also her coming-of-age story, Joy’s delivery is perfect, neither star-power-monopolising distracting quotables nor just paying the bills.

If you aren’t welling up by this scene, check with your physician. You may be repto-cyborg.

Aaaaand, in substance: unlike the treatment of human drama as accessory to some 9/11 reboot, that Riley’s dealing with being uprooted from her hometown is inseparable from the adventure described above. If you can evoke all the dread of a world in jeopardy all because one, little girl appears sulky at a new beginning, you’ve done something profound and special. It’s real thought-provoking, even to a bad, childless dad like me. I had my first tears drawn at a single shot of a floating island representing the goofball in her personality crumbling into the subconscious abyss. Writer/director Pete Docter (Up, Monsters Inc. and father to a daughter of 12) has successfully returned to sabotage the waterworks (personally? welled up 3 times, wept once). One can’t take for granted that what might seem like moping or ‘a phase’ the kid should get over can be irrevocably apocalyptic to the poor thing.

While the call-to-arms in other blockbusters might have their place, this 40kg world of very personal boom, recession, reinforcement & revolution is far too often ignored commercially and Inside Out reflects on how even a child might begin to exercise this petite politics. Y’all need to take your kids, take your wife, and take your husband.

Outcome: 10/10

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