Some movies go to great lengths to show you profound they are. Others just assume you’ll pay attention. Inside Out is the latter.
The latest Pixar movie follows an 11 year-old girl named Riley, who moves with her family from her childhood home in Minnesota to a dingy apartment in San Francisco. The move makes Riley sad. She misses her best friend, her hockey team and her childhood innocence. But her parents, despite good intentions, are too busy settling in to notice that Riley is struggling.
This is a story you’ve seen many times before, more likely in your life than at the movies. That’s because the story doesn’t appear to have much in the way of exterior stakes. And it doesn’t. But Inside Out finds a way to make the interior stakes exterior by zooming in right between Riley’s temples, where emotions Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black) take turns influencing Riley’s actions from a sleek control center in her cerebal cortex.
Influencing is the key word. Inside Out wisely avoids drawing a direct link between emotions and actions. It’s correlation, not causation. Dramatizing such abstract relationships would seem near impossible, but director Pete Docter and the team at Pixar have pulled it off with stunning complexity.