Usually, when I watch an animated feature in the cinema, my date and I find ourselves amongst the very few spectators of adult age to be unaccompanied by a child, which is not a surprise in any way, but it does tend to make us look a bit creepy or immature, I suppose. Ah, I say to myself-it’s the ‘kiddie fare’ stereotyping that animated films still have to endure. This was not the case the other day with ‘Inside Out’, Pixar’s latest, which I saw in a London theatre with a much more balanced audience. Everybody loves Pixar, apparently. Kids still love Pixar: indeed, during my commute to work this very morning I had the chance to listen to a little girl explaining the characters to her sister in a most enthusiastic manner. And us adults, we too love Pixar, and we’re not ashamed to show it anymore.
The reasons why Pixar is enjoying this cross-generational appeal are quite obvious in ‘Inside Out’, perhaps more so than in any of their other films-it’s funny, it’s smart, it’s touching and it has a high concept story that draws your attention from the beginning: five emotions personified, battling for prominence in the head of a little girl.
I have to admit I was not exceedingly optimistic about ‘Inside Out’ from the trailer alone, even though I liked its basic idea; the scene that was used for promoting the movie, presented without context, looked rife with rather lazy jokes and gender stereotypes. Thankfully, in the good old tradition of terribly chosen trailers that all US big releases seem to follow nowadays, the movie itself turned out to be pretty great. While it doesn’t quite rise to the greatness of the first act in „Wall-E” or „Up”, it’s a more even achievement that doesn’t drop the ball in the last act (I’m looking at you, „Up”) or at all, really.
‘Inside Out’ imagines a beautiful inner world for human beings, filled with colour and silliness but also with clever, geeky jokes and ideas (I particularly loved a sequence in which the characters go through the four stages of abstract thought). What’s better, it seems to be rooted in some understanding of actual science. I almost found myself wishing that there would be no screen time for ‘outer world’ humans at all, but perhaps that is the very point of the story: the real world cannot compare to the universe we hold within us. The plot is quite simple: ostensible protagonist Riley is having trouble coping with her family’s move to a new house in a new town, which leads to an emotional conflict between her Joy and Sadness (the film’s true protagonists).
The arguments made by ‘Inside Out’ throughout these events, though, are surprisingly mature, and bittersweet: a life of continuous happiness and joy is not possible, or even desirable. Sadness is an inescapable part of being alive, and some changes and losses cannot be reversed. This is an important truth that most kids’ movies (and actually, most adults’ movies, too) are trying to sugarcoat or ignore altogether, as if blocking out all the sad things from children’s entertainment could shelter children from encountering them in real life. Most of us wish for happy endings in escapist entertainment, but they have to be earned; ‘Inside Out’ is that rare film that doesn’t patronise you by telling you absolutely everything will be fine even while it remains generally fun and optimistic.
The visuals are typically great for a big budget animated release (although I was a bit puzzled by the fuzzy felt-like texture of the Emotion characters). The voice cast is also great, with Sadness being a particular stand-out for me. ‘Inside Out’ is a success and a return to form for Pixar, and you should all see it, regardless of age.
Just have patience during ‘Lava’, the annoying (and frankly, kind of sexist) opening short cartoon about singing volcanos in love, okay? It ends quickly.