What were the Pixar folks thinking, making a film about the conflicting emotions in a little girl’s head? It might seem like a pretty cerebral premise for a kids’ flick, but from this very unlikely subject matter comes a fun for the whole family film. I went with my nephews (ages 6, 8, and 17), my sister in law (40ish), and my mother (age 89), and we all appreciated it for different reasons depending on our ages. There are funny and thoughtful bits that only an adult will get, but the kids and the teenager were thoroughly entertained.
Inside Out is the story of an 11-year-old girl named Riley whose life goes through some big changes when her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. While we see bits of her outer life, the big goings on are inside her head. Her emotions are trying to make sure the transition is not too hard on her, and led by Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) they try to keep things on an even keel. Joy is just one of the emotions jockeying for control, along with Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black) and Fear (Bill Hader). But when Joy and Sadness get swept into the back of Riley’s mind by accident, the others take over, and Joy and Sadness wander through a maze of her memories trying desperately to get back to Headquarters and save her from losing all the thoughts that make her who she is. One delightful character they meet along the way is Riley’s imaginary friend Bing-Bong (Richard Kind), who’s been relegated to a fading memory, but helps them save the day.
What you end up with is a very sciency story told in a very non-sciency way. You’re pulling for Joy and Sadness to save Riley’s memories and make her happy again, and their journey is one of enlightenment about how we need all our emotions to be fully human. Inside Out is sweet and sad and totally entertaining and a great family flick! I highly recommend this one.
(And apparently a noted neuroscientist attested that the film gets the brain/memory science right, too.)