When my son and daughter were young I had the perfect excuse to go to the movies and watch animated features produced by studios like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks. As my kids got older, however, and their tastes changed, I didn’t have many occasions to see the multitude of animated films coming out each year (although I still managed to see a few with my daughter who, like me, still enjoyed them into adulthood.)
Though animated films from Pinocchio on have always given sly winks to adult audiences, this became particularly widespread in the mid-nineties. By the time Shrek was released in 2001 audiences of all ages were gravitating to what was essentially an adult film containing many allusions kids couldn’t begin to fathom.
Striking a balance between a film that will draw kids and one that will also appeal to the adults accompanying them is not an easy task but Inside Out, produced by Pixar Studios and released by Disney Pictures succeeds in doing just that.
When I was informed that my neighborhood would be without power from 8 AM to 3 PM, I decided to go to a matinee and wait it out in an air-conditioned theater. I purveyed the title of films I’d already seen and those I had no desire to ever see before purchasing a ticket for Inside Out.
At midday the theater was nearly empty except for a sprinkling of elderly women and a young mother with her daughter. The premise of the film is fairly straightforward. We are taken into the inner workings of the brain of an adorable eleven-year old girl named Riley. Her actions are dictated by various emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust (Characters voiced respectively by Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, and Mindy Kaling. Actor Richard Kind also voices a significant character that is introduced half-way into the story.)
Riley and her parents relocate to another city, something with which Riley has difficulty coping, especially when the emotional mechanisms in her brain undergo a glitch causing a huge change in her behavior. All of the actors voicing the emotions are comics who add just the right flavor to the excellent script written by Peter Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen. There is a particularly funny scene in which the audience is privy to the inner workings of the brains of Riley’s mom and dad.
The visuals are exciting so the film moves quickly and succeeds in engaging viewers under the age of twelve as well as their parents and grandparents. And the message one takes away from the film is as valid for adults as for children. The goal at first is to keep Riley happy, a goal orchestrated by Joy. Her Sadness emotion is sulky and pretty much dismissed by the others until it is discovered that without the occasional presence of sadness we cannot fully appreciate joy.
My emotional state was definitely a positive one when I left the theater and I would highly recommend this film to adults and children alike.
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