Pixar’s 15th feature film is a captivating study of a child’s emotional development that educates as much as enthrals, while still retaining the ability to transform stable parents into gibbering, heaving wrecks.
The setting is 11-year-old Riley’s head, where – in similar fashion to the Beano’s Numskulls – the little girl’s four core emotions fuss and fight over the best way to navigate a life-changing family move from the Midwest to San Francisco.
Beautifully animated in typical Pixar nonpareil, they are: sassy Disgust (Mindy Kaling), skittish Fear (Bill Hader), combustible Anger (Lewis Black) and the ultra-lethargic Sadness. Amy Poehler shines (quite literally) in what must be one of the castings of the century – she plays Joy.
Firmly supported by a fine acting line-up and a tightrope-taut script, Inside Out reaches down into the memory dump and yanks Pixar right back to the top of its game following the forgettable Brave (2012) and Monsters University (2013).
The extraordinary inventiveness of co-writers Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen is a delight, while different domains of Riley’s mind like ‘Abstract Thought’ and ‘Imagination Land’ are intensely absorbing and snort-in-your-slushy funny.
Yes there are moments of heart-breaking sorrow – mums, please try not to suffocate your children during these. Watching a snotty toddler gripped in a parent’s ‘loving embrace’ slowly turn blue will put anyone off their popcorn – but emotional hysteria is not the pre-eminent interest of this film.
As with all Pixar movies, the message is central. This is one of family (albeit in a very heteronormative, white context), trust and an understanding that negative feelings are just as important as positive ones in shaping our psyches. Everyone has to grow up someday, after all.