Pixar Review 18: Inside Out

inside out6Feeling a little emotional guys?  I am because I’m so happy at the amazing movie I just saw!  I LOVED Pixar’s latest movie- Inside Out.  I know it sounds like hyperbole but it may be my favorite Pixar movie.  Yes, it may even be better than my beloved Up.  I really believe that is true.

Inside Out is great in every way.  I loved the characters, world, humor, story, everything.  There is nothing I would change.  If you are expecting criticism in this review you will be sorely disappointed.

I am going to do my best to keep this review spoiler free.  My thought is to then go back in a couple of weeks, once most you have seen it, and post a spoiler review about the small details and goings-on of the plot.

Basically the story of Inside Out is about a girl named Riley (love that Pixar picked a girl).  She is a happy 11 year old who is still a little girl and hasn’t grown out of making monkey sounds with her Dad and being goofy.

inside out12Unfortunately Riley’s parents are moving her from her hometown of Minnesota to San Francisco, California.   This naturally brings up a lot of emotions for a young girl and in this movie those emotions look like…

inside out5In the world of the story our minds (not brains) are made up of a mission control of sorts that are run by our 5 emotions:

Joy voiced by Amy Poehler

Sadness voiced by Phyllis Smith

Fear voiced by Bill Hader

Anger voiced by Lewis Black

Disgust voiced by Mindy Kaling

All the voicework in Inside Out is first rate.  What I found so remarkable is these characters should be very one-note.  They are after all emotions.  This should make things very predictable, even grating, but they aren’t at all.  Sadness is an especially dynamic character and you come to realize that great relationship between joy and sadness in our lives. It’s brilliant.

inside out 17The world of the mind is not only staffed by emotions but also is the receptacle for all different kinds of memories.  The memories are little glass balls that glow with whatever emotion the memory entails (a happy memory being yellow for joy, fearful memory purple for fear etc).    There are also memories for data, long-term, short-term, even a hilarious joke of a song that you can’t get out of your head!

inside out8There are also core memories that are the most important for forming Riley.  Those core memories are then the supports for the personality islands.

inside out9Riley’s personality islands are goofball, honesty, family, friendship and hockey.  (I know this sounds complex but it really isn’t).

The 5 emotions are responsible for keeping all the memories in check, the islands floating, and making sure Riley is ok.  Unfortunately things go awry when the core memories are lost along with Joy and Sadness.  This creates a delightful parallel story between Riley who is all the sudden without the emotions to cope with this huge change and the journey of Joy and Sadness getting home and helping Riley.  Plus, Disgust, Anger and Fear have to try and manage Riley as best they can without Joy.

inside out 15
Riley speaking before her new class
inside out 10
Joy and Sadness lost in the department of long-term memory
inside out16
Anger, fear and disgust trying to keep things together.

Joy and Sadness end up going through imaginationland, as well as several other parts of Riley’s psyche and subconscious that I won’t spoil.  But along the way they meet an old imaginary friend of Riley’s called Bing Bong voiced by Richard Kind.  This was an unexpected, unpredictable and wonderfully dynamic character.

inside out11I’ll leave the rest of the plot for you to uncover on your own.  Let’s just say all the plot strands end up in an ending that is as good as the beginning of Up.  For real….

I cried, it made me think about my own emotions and feelings, and it made me laugh really hard.  Everything has layers in Inside Out including the jokes.  For example,  there may be a joke about the subconscious that may go over a kids head but anger getting red, fiery and steamed up will make them laugh- so something for everyone in nearly every scene.

One thing that Pixar does so well (and old school Disney did also) is take kids seriously and this movie does not ‘cutify’ Riley at all.  She is a real person with feelings and emotions that affect her family.  Seeing into her mind is the equivalent of seeing into her heart and it is a lovely place.  She is creative, different, normal and vulnerable.  We also get little peeks into the command centers of other characters.  They aren’t that different from Riley (again that respect for kids.  I love that).

inside out 14And like I said the ending is perfection.

From an animation standpoint it is stunning.  I loved the way the emotions were drawn so that they looked a little fuzzy at the edges, a little ephemeral. I think Riley and her parents are some of the best humans Pixar has done and the world with the memory globes is gorgeous.  There are scenes where we get into dimensions where the animation is astonishing and surprising and I loved the way they did the ‘memory dump’ and the almost charcoal like globes down there.

inside out4 The music by Michael Giacchino does the job but isn’t quite as good as the score for Up which is one of my favorites of all time.  It didn’t make me think of my Grandpa like Up did but I am thinking about what my core memories are.  We all have them.

And like I said all the voice performances are perfect.  The emotions should be one note and predictable but they aren’t.  Just like most emotions they are layered and complicated.

But again also very funny.  I laughed my head off.  I loved a scene where they found tiles of opinions and facts.  They get spilled and the conductor tells them ‘they often get mixed up”.  That’s the kind of humor we get all over the place (or pizza being on broccoli!).

Very rarely do I see a movie more than once in a theater.  The last time I did was Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is a top 10 movie for me (I saw it 3 times in a week…).  I guarantee you I will see Inside Out at least 4 times in the theater and will pre-order it on blu-ray as soon as I can.  I LOVED it.  I couldn’t wait to see it and now I can’t wait to see it again.

Your kids will love it.  You will love it.  It’s one of the greats.   This will definitely be my favorite movie of the year.  I can promise you that.

Overall Grade- A+

Here is my youtube review

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The Giver: A Review

giverI guess this is just the weekend for me to watch drab sad movies based on popular books.  Any person would have to admit that Fault in Our Stars is a better movie than the Giver but it angered me more where The Giver was just uniformly bland.  It’s a shame too because I love the novel and have been to a Lois Lowry lecture and heard her talk about the characters and world so lovingly.  It pains me to say it but The Giver is not a very good movie.

In truth it should never have been made in the first place.  It’s basically a book about a boy who sits in an office, receives memories and then decides to leave.  That works in the book but in the movie it feels like a dystopian therapist session that’s not very interesting.

giver 6They actually get the world pretty good except they invite color way too early and the appearance of color isn’t nearly shocking enough for Jonas.  He doesn’t seem to be really effected by what he see’s until the war when in the book every session is jaw dropping for him.  It is also way more of an emotional journey for The Giver where here it seems like he decides last minute to go along with Jonas’ plan.  In the book he tells him about his daughter earlier and they seem like son and father deeply connected.

I thought they handled the baby ‘release’ about as chillingly yet not grotesque way as they could and the father never seemed trustworthy where in the book he totally does.  Katie Holmes is terrible and I am all the more convinced she  cannot act to save her life.

I guess I’m jumping ahead of myself.  If you are unfamiliar with The Giver it is a dystopian novel (written long before the recent trend yet the last one to make it to the big screen…) about a society which has removed all choices, memory and emotion from human experience.  Each day the residents are given injections to dull their senses and all abnormalities, even pleasant one’s like twins or babies who cry too much, are removed so all conformity is ensured.

giver3The residents have lost the ability to see colors and are living in black and white, happy with the choices they are given.  They are also taught to use ‘precise language’ such as talking about why they love someone not just saying ‘I love you’.  They also are taught to never lie and to always apologize for everything.

giver2At the beginning the graduating seniors are given their assigned roles and careers and young Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is  given the rare responsibility as ‘The Receiver of Memories’.  He is assigned to the current receiver or The Giver played by Jeff Bridges.  He is told he will live by different rules than everyone else and he stops taking the pills and injections.

The Giver then gives Jonas all the memories of society- the wars, joys, and colors, and this naturally causes him to feel conflicted.  Everything is heightened when he finds out more about his father and they have a new baby assigned them named Gabe.   There is also a girl he wrestles with feelings for named Fiona played by Odeya Rush.

giver 5Meryl Streep is a convincing villain as The Chief Elder who is the only one besides The Giver who knows what is really going on.  However, she like any despot convinces herself that the suffering is for the best.  “When people choose, they choose wrong” she says.

giver5Evidently this was a passion project for Jeff Bridges and he is good as The Giver but the structure of the story just doesn’t work as a movie.  It’s too much people sitting talking and sharing random events and that works in the book but not in the movie. I don’t think there is anything they could have done to have made it work. Once Jonas breaks free and is out of the Giver sessions I felt it gets some momentum and I started to care more.  That last segment and the last scene with the sled was very good.

Maybe a really artistic director like Terry Gilliam or the way Ridley Scott directed Blade Runner it could have worked but I think you’d have to work a little more action into the story or find a way to narrate the memory giving so you get the emotion shared in the book into the movie.

I actually think it could work very well as a TV series where each week he confronts a new memory and things build bit-by-bit. You could really get to know the characters and the memories a little bit more than you can in a movie.  Thoughts?

I really love the book so it’s a shame.  It’s the kind of book 100 people could read and get 100 different messages out of it.  Some see it as very religious. Others as agnostic and according to Lowry both are right.  That’s what makes it a great book but a challenging movie.

The movie also does embrace the Biblical allegories more than the book. We see apples and the idea of original sin is discussed more than memories on their own. I didnt mind that but I also like the subtlety of the book a little better

Everyone tries and it isn’t terrible, but like The Book Thief movie it has all of the pieces but none of the magic. Read the book instead.  In my opinion it is a much better book than The Hunger Games (and much less cynical).

As far as content a baby is killed but it is mostly off screen.  Jonas is chased with a baby and war and other pain is depicted in the memories.  Other than that it is pretty tame. No language that I can recall.

Overall Grade- C    Content Grade- A

I wrote this post and then looked at an old comment I made when it first came out.  Looks like I thought it could be a good TV series then and still do now!  Some things never change! Funny.  (And I was right on about Lowry focusing more on characters than setting which is unusual for dystopian novels)

the giver 6 months