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Inside Out a Literal Train Ride of Emotions in the Best Way Possible

<i>Inside Out</i> a Literal Train Ride of Emotions in the Best Way Possible

DVD Release Date: November 3, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: June 19, 2015
Rating: Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama
Run Time: 94 minutes
Directors: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Cast: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Lewis Black, Kaitlyn Dias, Richard Kind, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan

Do you remember what it was like to be eleven? Here's a hint: it was not easy; growing up never is. For Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), things go from pretty great to kind of awful when her dad moves the family from Minnesota to San Francisco. A new home, new school, new life—it's enough to send anyone's emotions into a tizzy.

Riley's emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside her mind where they take turns helping her get through everyday life. Since Riley's a pretty happy kid, most of the time Joy (Amy Poehler, Baby Mama) is in charge. Occasionally, Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins), Disgust (Mindy Kaling, No Strings Attached) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith, Bad Teacher) get a turn at the controls, but Joy runs a tight ship. At least, she does until Sadness starts to mess with things, core memories begin to change, and suddenly young Riley's entire personality is in jeopardy. Pixar's from crosswalkmovies on GodTube.

Poehler voices Joy with a relentless cheer that's equal parts adorable and frantic. You can't help but root for her even when you know she's doing the wrong thing (for the right reasons, of course). Joy is perfectly balanced by the just-barely-breathing gloom of Smith's Sadness, a character who makes Eeyore look like an optimist. When things go awry at Headquarters, these two opposites will have to work together to save "our girl." Their adventures take them deep into Riley's memory, a world so imaginative the only thing we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride—including one on a literal train of thought. Take some tissues along: Riley's imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind, Obvious Child) will break your heart in the best possible way. In addition, Inside Out teaches a good lesson on the importance of acknowledging all emotions, even the not-so-fun ones. Eventually even Joy comes to realize the important role Sadness has to play in Riley's emotional makeup.

Don't let the animation fool you; this isn't really a movie for wee ones. The concepts are too sophisticated for the toddler crowd to appreciate. The three-year-old with us was restless the whole time; as cute as they are, Riley's emotions failed to engage her interest (a scary clown scene didn't help). Grade-schoolers should be fine; the pre-teen in our group loved it.

To an adult, Inside Out is almost painfully funny. All those emotions are oh-so-familiar and their reactions are spot on. That's not an accident; director Pete Docter (Up) did his research to make the science as accurate as possible because, as he told NPR's Terry Gross, "You just don't want to make a film that scientists go to and roll their eyes at." There is some eye-rolling—especially from Disgust, a snotty teenager of an emotion if ever there was one—but it's all onscreen. The rest of us are too busy laughing, groaning, and blinking away tears. Bonus: we learn the answer to the age-old question of where those annoying songs that stick in your head come from. 

While most of our time is spent in Riley's emotional core, we do get the occasional peek at other characters' emotions. That's a special treat for the grown-ups in the audience, particularly when Mom and Dad are trying to deal with their unexpectedly cranky daughter.

There's a lot more to like here, but don’t take my word for it, go soon and see it for yourself—kids optional.

(As usual with Disney-Pixar films, Inside Out is preceded by a 'short.' This one is more melancholy than charming, a sad little tale about a lonely volcano. While it does have one pretty good pun and eventually reaches a happy ending, the emotional payoff at the end is not enough to make up for the misery that precedes it).

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: None
  • Language/Profanity: Anger refers to "curse words" but never actually says any
  • Sex/Nudity: One brief glimpse of a baby’s bare bottom
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense: The characters are often in emotional distress—most characters are actual emotions, after all—and there's a fake dog that gets cut in half (no blood; it's all okay) but the only really scary thing is the clown (isn't it always?)

Publication date: June 18, 2015