Monday, June 22, 2015

inside out/uʍop ǝpᴉsdn

"Inside Out" is something of a crash course in the development and working of the human brain, specifically the evolving brain of a child and, for the sake of simplicity, its focus is limited to only five emotions - joy, sadness, fear, anger and disgust - that may dictate the child's given mood.

It has the soothing feel of one parent (the filmmaker) reassuring other parents (his target audience) that it's perfectly fine for their children to experience sadness - and, by extension, for everyone to feel sad occasionally, children and adults alike.  Being sad, in fact, can be constructive. Given the unfortunate societal trend of expected instant gratification, this bit of wisdom is much-needed, if not necessarily new.

But it's a long slog before this message becomes clear.  Much of the film is about the custody battle for sole dominion of a child named Riley fought by two emotions, personified as adorable cartoon creatures  - Joy, a text-book control freak, and Sadness, a text-book passive aggressive.

Joy, who flat-out states, "I just want Riley to be happy," initially has the audience on her side, but when the two warring emotions are sidelined away from the control panel that motivates Riley's swinging moods and they have to find a way to get back (in road film fashion), it is Sadness who saves the day. Riley's problem, see, is that her parents moved her from her birthplace to San Francisco and she learns it's perfectly fine to mourn the change and cry over her loss. She feels better when she does.

"Inside Out" and its championing of sadness would make more sense if Riley's parents spent most of the film trying to cheer her up and nudge her towards forced fun, insisting on happiness.  But they never do that.  Her father is preoccupied with work-related problems and her mom is distracted because the truck carrying all their furniture hasn't arrived.

There would be a point to the film if Riley's folks were like other modern parents who are obsessed with their children being happy all the time.

But more problematic is that the movie's concept and its execution don't match.  The film is clearly speaking to an adult audience with dialogue that incorporates a veritable glossary of  psychological jargon ("core memories," "abstract thought" and more).  It's very clever and glib, particularly when Joy comes upon a board game whose individual pieces read either "fact" or "opinion" and she quips, "I don't see the difference."

But, visually, especially the way the control-room emotions are drawn in bright primary and pastel colors (and those emotions do dominate the film), "Inside Out" looks like something packaged for pre-school children.

Much like Joy and Sadness, these two factions are at war with each other.

Note in Passing: "Inside Out" opens with an on-screen introduction by one of its makers, Pete Docter, who lauds the audience for being there and for supporting movies which are so important to life.  The conceit is a tad condescending and self-important and I thought to myself, "Uh-oh!"


jeff andrews said...

Are you kidding? Every critic in America is raving about "Inside Out." Either everyone else is wrong - or you're wrong. Who's right?

joe baltake said...

Neither. It's a matter of different tastes and opinions. I would never say I was right about anything. However, I am a bit disappointed in the herd complex that has overtaken critics on this particular movie.

Brian Lucas said...

It's like blind love, Joe. I really dislike when critics do this, even if the movie in question is one I love. I like a little diversity and conflict. It really bugs me when critics gang up on a film and bludgeon it en masse.

joe baltake said...

Brian- When that happens, I call it the lynch mob mentality. The herd complex is when everyone agrees to agree.

Paul Margulies said...


Haven't spoken in a long time... hope all is well.

I just wanted to point out a festival I'm heading to in October.

They'll be showing 2 films in real, three projector Cinerama on a louvered deep curve screen. Not to be missed. If you can make it over, dinner's on me!


Paul Margulies

Marvin said...

I have no desire to see INSIDE OUT, as I don't "do" animation. Yes, critics have loved the film, but you have always been "your own critic," which is what makes you such a superb one.

Alex said...

Hey, I liked the film. Didn't love it, but liked it a lot. Fact is, it doesn't live up to the hype or the critical raves. I think everyone who reviewed it drank the same Kool Aid. But, still, it's a good film.

Taylor Grant said...

I enjoyed it. Cute. I agree that it's not all it's been hyped to be. But I have to admit that hearing a little Tinker Bell clone talking about abstract thought was strange. I couldn't figure out if the movie was trying to educate kids or adults.

Charles said...

A wonderful, wonderful film, but I must say that the kids around me, the little ones, seemed antsy after a while. Lots of talking, parents taking them out of the auditorium. The adults all seemed to like it, however. It's really a cartoon for grown-ups. Makes you think.

Charles said...

I meant to say that the film makes you think about what it's saying, not what the filmmakers were trying to do. Wanted to clarify that.

Patty said...

About those five emotions, I highly doubt that a young child feels disgust. That's an adult emotion. Given that the character is green-colored, why wasn't it identified as envy or jealousy? That's something a kid would feel.

Vanessa H. said...

"Inside Out" is a clever animation, very original - and thank God that there were no songs. I liked "Frozen," too, but got sick of it after that song refused to go away.

betancourth16 said...

Inside Out shows what happens when Pixar puts their best directors at the helm. Pete Doctor is Pixar's first major director since Up, which he happened to direct as well. Inside Out is a fantastic film and one that will make you feel all of the emotions that exist in the film. All of the voice actors, especially Poehler, Smith, and Black, are great as well. Without a doubt, this film is Pixar's best since Toy Story 3 and possibly its best ever. It's up there with Wall-E and Finding Nemo. You must see it, even if you aren't a fan of animated films.

Anton said...

A film hastily overrated by critics who behave like sheep.