Pixar has been off its game since Toy Story 3. Cars 2 was the studio’s first critical dud, and even though Brave and Monsters University were well-received, they didn’t meet the insanely high standards Pixar set for itself.
Because of the problems Pixar faced with The Good Dinosaur, 2014 was Pixarless, the first time since 2005. One could only wonder during this horrid time what’s going on inside the minds at Pixar, and what do they have in store for us for their hopefully triumphant return?
From Pete Docter, the director of Monsters, Inc. and Up, comes Inside Out, a movie that takes a peak into what’s going on in a little girl’s head during a big moment in her life. And even though Pete Docter missed the incredible opportunity to go after a PHD to be called Dr. Docter, he certainly knows his way around the heart because Inside Out brings the creativity, the laughs, and, of course, the emotion that Pixar was founded on.
Inside Out begins its tale explaining the mind. Colorful people inside your brain represent your emotions, your memories are kept in glowing balls, and amusement parks in your mind stand for your core beliefs. And that’s only the first five minutes of the movie.
Inside Out is bursting with creativity. Take a random 30 second clip from this movie, and it has more originality than most movies would dream to have. Pixar has never disappointed in that field, but Inside Out might be their shining star.
Unfortunately, that comes with what is Inside Out’s only major drawback. Pixar has the creative freedom to do whatever it wants here. They can make the world of the mind into anything they desire and what they created is a wonder to behold, except Pixar didn’t set too many rules for itself.
Rats can cook exquisite french cuisine, fish can orchestrate rescue missions, and that cute little teddy bear you played with at preschool is actually a psychopath. Pixar has never been one to stay grounded in reality, but they would never spread their wings too far, always keeping a sense of realism in a very unrealistic world. In Toy Story, the toys just came to life, still existing in the real world. In The Incredibles, people have superpowers, but still lived in the real world. In Inside Out, the characters live solely in the mind, and anything can really happen.
Because of this, Pixar was able to almost too neatly cause problems for themselves to almost too neatly fix. The characters never felt like they were in danger, because some random event always comes out of nowhere to help the characters out. Elaborating brings us into spoiler territory, but don’t expect a very tight script.
Expect a funny script instead. Inside Out isn’t a comedic masterpiece, but just about every scene is good for a laugh or two. The scenes that lacked the jokes brought the tears, and in traditional Pixar fashion, Inside Out hit home on quite a few occasions.
Part of that credit goes to the amazing voice talent for putting so much energy in their characters. Amy Poehler is the embodiment of joy, and few people can match her stamina for this voice-only role. Phyllis Smith, aka Phyllis from The Office, has the perfect voice for Sadness which sounds like more of an insult than a compliment, but that Eeyore-esque attitude she brought to the character really fit the bill. Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, and Richard Kind round out one of the best voice casts in recent memory.
It doesn’t stand quite as tall as Pixar’s best, but that’s pretty unfair considering what Pixar’s best includes. Inside Out is a great movie on its own. Pixar may have let themselves get a little carried away from time to time, but that better not keep you away from the animated flick to beat in 2015.