This week on The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discussed Pixar’s Inside Out. Devin’s two-word description of the movie at 6:55 pretty much stands on its own, but we also discussed the ins and the outs of Inside Out and reflected on the last two decades of Pixar as they unfolded parallel to our childhood.
I also reviewed the movie for my blog,. Check out The Dissolve’s interview with director Pete Docter for more context about the film’s development. And A.O. Scott’s New York Times review is well worth your time.
Peruse the M&M Report category page for previous episodes of the podcast.
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.
The producers of this year’s Tony Awards faced a challenge akin to cooking a perfect souffle and then being asked to do it all over again, without several of the key ingredients, a year later. Host Hugh Jackman, despite his dazzling physical features, sizable vocal chops and endless charisma, was never going to top the achievements of last year’s emcee Neil Patrick Harris, who managed to follow what was perhaps the greatest awards show number of all time with two more numbers of nearly equal entertainment value. No one was going to top the majestic Cicely Tyson’s towering acceptance speech or Audra McDonald’s show-concluding mic drop. Why try?
Disney’s Frozen has all of the signifiers of another tired princess retread. A gorgeous young woman sets off an epic quest that hinges on the pursuit of true love’s kiss. She’s joined by a cadre of wacky sidekicks – in this case, a gruff iceman, a friendly snowman and a terse reindeer. Along the way, she encounters unfamiliar creatures, battles the forces of evil and eventually (spoiler alert, though not really) saves the world and restores the kingdom to peace and prosperity. Oh, and true love’s kiss and stuff.
But look closely at the beating heart of Frozen, and you’ll find just enough intriguing subversions of the formula to justify a return to these tropes. Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) rarely fulfills the role of damsel in distress, especially once she’s gotten used to interacting with actual human beings after years secluded in a cavernous castle. The forces of evil aren’t misunderstood monsters hungry for power, but the internal confusions of a young woman struggling with powers she doesn’t fully understand. True love’s kiss comes in many forms, romance ultimately proving to be insufficient. And in the end, it’s not the valiant prince that saves the day, but the power of well-established familial connections.
Saving Mr. Banks, written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), tells the story of P.L. Travers, the author of the beloved Mary Poppins children’s novels, who clashed with the production staff at Disney over every aspect of the company’s adaptation of her novel for the big screen. Before we get to my “three more thoughts,” here’s my review for The Eagle:
“Saving Mr. Banks is a testament to the cathartic power of artistic expression. It’s also an appealing showcase for a wide array of talented actors and an opportunity for Disney to pay tribute to its rich and complex history. Though it occasionally lapses into rote sentimentality and overdoses on manipulative melodrama, the film packs a punch with its nuanced depiction of a story that most people are only glancingly familiar with.”
Read the rest of my review for The Eagle here, then keep scrolling for three more thoughts.