Sometimes you enter a situation with a critical mindset, wondering what will be the first thing to go wrong. The trailer for Pixar’s latest, Inside Out, didn’t impress me– it bragged that this was the first “emotion picture,” taking us into the minds of its characters, though what we learned is that Mom is dreaming of a Brazilian pilot while Dad is ignoring her questions since, you know, sports. These weren’t new jokes, and it upset me. It’s 2015 and the comedies being made for children support tired tropes with this much enthusiasm? I wanted to hate this movie. But the truth is, Pete Docter’s Out is too complex for a trailer, and sure it’s made for kids, but adults too. And because it worked against the status quo and was original, hilarious, and so ridiculously intricate, I didn’t hate it. I found myself really enjoying it.
Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is an 11 year old girl forced to move to a new town, away from her friends and her hockey team and all things familiar. And while we get to know Riley and her parents (no siblings or pets), the true main characters are her emotions, personified and cast appropriately– Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (scene stealer and The Office extraordinaire Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), and Fear (my favorite character, voiced by Bill Hader). The explanation of Riley’s mind is beyond detailed– imagine the complexity of Monsters, Inc. multiplied hundreds of times. You see the way memories are organized, how some memories create core values, what the Train of Thought looks like. You go to Imagination Land, visit Dream Productions’ studio lot, and learn why that one jingle always gets stuck in your head. Sure, the story is about a girl, but what Out shows is the way our brain functions, in an adorable, humorous, child’s perspective way complete with millions of glowing bowling balls.
There were things I didn’t love, but they were so minor, like the fact that Riley has blue eyes but her parents’ eyes are brown. In general one of my biggest pet peeves is people referring to locations in different ways– like saying, “I moved to San Francisco from Minnesota,” which this film says countless times. Which city in Minnesota are you from, Riley? And Disgust was so annoying but I can assume that was the goal, in which case my list of complaints is down to two, so that makes for a pretty great movie going experience. I laughed. I was intrigued (hello, abstract thought sequence). I even teared up, as every person in the theatre seemed to have done, which I should’ve anticipated since even the short before the feature film, Lava, made some people cry. It was a beautiful, Hawaiian themed warning I stupidly ignored.
I wish we would’ve learned that Riley grew up to be an astronaut (Bing Bong [Richard Kind] would be so proud!), but on a serious note, I wish I could’ve seen this film with a kid, to watch how he or she understood each piece. It felt empowering leaving a movie that said sadness can be good, sadness has a purpose– and not necessarily empowering personally but more so knowing this movie is now a part of society’s toolkit, can be a part of a child’s toolkit. I would love to discuss with everyone why it’s great that Riley isn’t a princess but more than that, I’m thrilled Out reminds viewers that sadness isn’t a bad thing. In fact, Joy and Sadness prove to make a good team, and that’s worth discussing, too.