Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Inside Out

Directed by Peter Doctor and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Inside Out, a bold and ambitious premise that, arguably, reaches further than any other movie under the Disney banner to date. The story concerns single child Riley (American of course) and, to a greater extent, the five anthropomorphised emotions at the controls in 'Headquarters' in her mind. Headquarters! Geddit?!? Don't worry, the jokes get a lot better than that.

It's subtly communicated, but the two main themes of the movie are growth and maturation. These themes start right at the beginning of the film, when we are briefly introduced to Riley as a newborn. Joy is born into existence, and Riley has her first smile; Sadness follows soon afterwards, and therefore so does Riley's first cry. The control panel in HQ consists of a single oversized button. Fast forward to Riley age eleven, and Joy and Sadness have been joined by three other emotions; Fear, Anger, and Disgust. Together, they use the control panel (now significantly more complex) to manage Riley's reactions to the world around her. 

The casting here is interesting, as the actors are generally speaking names with little to no experience of children's projects, and/or are far better known for work unsuitable for the little ones. Amy Poehler plays Joy and, while she has for example played Eleanor in two of the live-action Chipmunk films (unrecognisable through the voice manipulation, of course), she'll be better known to most for work such as Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation. Similarly, if you recognise names such as Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader or Richard Kind at all, it's unlikely to be for kids' projects. They all have strong backgrounds in comedy though, which has helped immensely. Inside Out is very funny when it wants to be.

Riley's family moves house (a popular allegory for growing up) almost as soon as the film has begun, which is what kicks off all the trouble. With Riley taken far away from her school, her friends, and all that is familiar to her, Joy does her best to spray a positive sheen over everything, and to manage absolutely everything in order to keep Riley happy – but this, you see, is the true source of the chain of disasters which follows. Joy works hard to suppress Sadness and keep her away from the controls and from stored memories at every opportunity. Although it's not immediately obvious, each instance of Joy's well-intended actions against Sadness have a negative effect on Riley.

The story is just as much about Joy growing up as it is about Riley doing the same. There's a powerful scene toward the end where Joy, irrepressibly positive and happy for the rest of the film, breaks down in tears. This is the point at which she finally matures, and realises that it is Sadness who must save the day. One of the take-home messages of the film is that it's okay – necessary, in fact – to be sad sometimes; a line that children and adults alike need to take to heart.

It seems almost unfair to say so, but the film would have been more interesting (and even funnier) if more time were spent in heads other than Riley's – as these moments are the source of some of the film's best jokes. That's a shame, but this is still a film that will make kids of all ages listen, laugh, and maybe – just maybe – have a healthy little cry, too.

The whole family will Riley like it. 4/5.


Luke Kemp

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