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Inside Out (2015)

June 29, 2015

Starring: Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black
Director: Pete Docter (Up, Monsters Inc.), Ronaldo Del Carmen

Bottom Line: Boy, I hate to say it, but Pixar’s Inside Out is one of the most overrated movies I’ve ever seen. It’s at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.8 on IMDB with a top 60 ranking in their top 250 of all-time. Those are extremely strong ratings and with Pixar’s nearly flawless track record (I’m looking at you Cars 1 and 2) the superlatives being tossed around concerning this movie seemed quite reasonable. When my wife turned to me about thirty minutes into it and asked “is it almost over?” I had a sad moment of realization that Pixar had dropped the ball on this one.

Now, I don’t want to say Inside Out was bad, but it was dangerously close to bad – and it certainly wasn’t the borderline classic critics have made it out to be. It’s the story of a young girl named Riley and the emotions in her head (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear) as her family moves from Minnesota to the busy city of San Francisco, leaving behind friends, memories, and the frozen lakes she used to play hockey on. It’s actually a pretty good concept, but the setting of a girl’s head is tough terrain and I really didn’t think the execution was all that great. Inside Out is at its best when all the emotions are together in “Headquarters” interacting with each other hilariously, but Joy and Sadness quickly get separated from the rest of the crew and things get… quite a bit messy and surprisingly boring. During their quest to save “Friendship Island,” “Hockey Island,” “Family Island,” etc. from collapsing and disappearing from Riley’s memory forever, the duo encounter Riley’s old imaginary friend Bing Bong, a cotton candy/elephant/dolphin hybrid that is about as pleasing as Jar Jar Binks was. Seriously. Once the conflict starts in Inside Out and Joy and Sadness take a tour through Riley’s head when the depressing reality of moving to San Francisco really kicks in, the movie’s momentum halts and the story feels like a drag. The best moments of the movie take place outside Riley’s head and that’s a problem.

As usual, Pixar does a good job in the animation department. It’s little wonder that the Bay Area-based company could bring San Francisco to life with such amazing detail. I particularly liked Riley’s encounter with broccoli pizza and SF’s ubiquitous dedication to organic foods – an especially funny touch considering I visited SF last week and the one restaurant I ate in offered only organic food. The voice talent is also well cast and does a good job. The concept and story here are pretty good, I just expected it to be better.

Overall, I found Inside Out to be funny at times and I liked Riley’s story, but I didn’t much care for what was going on with the emotions inside her head – those were the scenes where you just want it to be over already. The themes of growing up were somewhat touching, but they were so much more powerful and well done in Toy Story 3. I also felt like Inside Out was more tailored for kids only than almost any Pixar movie I’ve ever seen. Inside Out isn’t terrible – I would definitely recommend it to families – but it was a massive disappointment for me personally.

Replay Value: I don’t know if I can watch this movie again, but I feel like I might owe it another viewing.
Sequel Potential: Highly likely.
Oscar Potential: Basically a shoo-in for Best Animated movie based on the critic’s reviews.

Grade: 5.5/10 (Watchable/Recommended)

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