June 22, 2015

Movie Review: Inside Out and Lava

Pixar has returned to the big screen for the first time since 2013, when Monsters University graced the big screen. It is also the film that has helped restore my faith in the groundbreaking and inventive studio, as I feel they had been slipping since the excellent Toy Story 3 back in 2010. Inside Out is simply fantastic; however, it also feels a bit like they are trying to show off their uber-creative side again. It is not that I feel they are trying too hard, it is just that the concept they are playing with is not an easy one to visualize. It also feels a little like they left the young audience behind with a movie that is a touch more mature and slower paced.

Before we can go any further, we need to say a few words about the short film that precedes our feature. First, let me say that I love that Pixar includes a short before their feature films, they are wonderful add-ons that have demonstrated an amazing ability to tell a complete, emotional story in just a few minutes, and the latest is no different. It is called Lava, and it is told completely in song, telling the story of a volcano looking for somevolcano to love. It is simply beautiful and if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye, well, there's no saving you. Now back to the feature at hand.

Inside Out tells us the story of eleven-year old Riley Anderson, whose life is uprooted when her father takes a new job and moves the family from Minnesota to San Francisco. It is a move that takes her away from everything she knows, friends, school, her hockey team. What makes this movie so fascinating is that it takes us inside her head and gives us a look at how her personality is structured and how her she is dealing with this in an emotional fashion.

It is quite a high concept to deal with and a there is a fantastic job in bring this concept to life in a visualized narrative that makes sense. I cannot imagine this being an easy feat to accomplish. I am reminded a little of the movie Perfume: Story of a Murderer, not so much in content but in how they took a story so rooted in the sense of smell and was able to translate it visually. In both cases you are dealing with a concept that is not inherently visible, and in both cases they made it work visually.

Over the course of the movie, we get some brief glimpses into the heads of other characters (most notably Riley's parents), but for what we are really concerned with, we spend the most time inside of Riley's head. Inside the head we see the creation of memories, storage of memories, the recalling of memories, what memories are tossed out as unnecessary, and the key components that make up someone's personality. We even get a tour through the subconscious, abstract thought, imagination, dreams, and more.

This movie covers a lot of ground and does a great job visualizing the battle that can go on inside our minds when a variety of emotions battle for control. It also demonstrates the affect that a big life change can have on a young mind. Still, even with all of the serious stuff and the sad stuff, Inside Out still manages to be majorly entertaining.

Using the traumatic event of the move and its resulting sadness as a launching point, we are given a fun adventure through the mind and the various concepts of memory, dream, and thought. Our main character here is Joy (Amy Poelher) and we follow her journey, while protecting Riley's most important memories in her attempt to get them back in place.

Frankly, I am not sure what else to say about the movie. I just love how they are able to visually realize the mind and take the complexity of emotions and memory and display it in a coherent fashion. Yes, it may simplify a lot of things, but what they do is nothing short of fantastic. The interplay of memory, the recall of important moments, the influence on decision making, all done in a fashion that makes sense and just works.

The voice acting is also pretty solid. Amy Poehler channeling the bubbliness of her Parks and Recreation character to Phyllis Smith calling back to her The Office character is excellent. Lewis Black is spot on as Anger. Everything just fits in the right place.

I did not think the movie was going to be this good. Yes, I think its subject might be above the grasp of the younger members of the audience, but I also think that it could be an interesting discussion starter. Either way, I know that I loved it and its approach to the mind. Also, how can you not love the memories being visualized as marbles? I loved the sound design of them rolling around and hitting each other.

Highly Recommended.

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