Pixar’s literal emotional roller coaster shoots us closer to the heady heights of the studio’s former glories than we’ve been in years…
Since the 2010 release of Toy Story 3, Pixar has been treading water a tad. The less said about Cars 2, the better, no-one’s missing much with Brave, and when the material finally became a little more adult-relatable with Monsters University, the finished product – while addressing some important themes and certainly raising a smile – had a rather nothing-else-to-do-weekday-matinee type vibe to it. The studio’s latest effort, Pete Docter’s Inside Out, is a welcome return to form, embracing and displaying the sort of deep, completely original development and exquisite execution of its predecessors. It really feels like the fresh Pixar films of old, something we’ve been waiting for a fair old while in amongst the sequels.
Docter himself deserves a lot of credit for this. Having seen the success of Up, Pixar were willing to let him do his own thing, a chance he evidently seized with both hands, drawing on his own childhood and that of his daughter to create a grand theatre of complex themes associated with the joys and perils of youth. Having said that, in no way is the picture complicated. The visual layers of the mind Docter and his team create allow the viewer to get lost in the epic fantasy of a child’s thoughts, emotions, and personality, all of which constantly remain both moving and startling relatable throughout. Whatever’s going on in the crazy, colourful version of the mind that exists within our lead human vessel, Riley, the results in the ‘real’ world are intrinsically and realistically linked down to the last detail. Depth doesn’t even begin to describe not only each of the active ‘living’ emotions and intriguing thought zones depicted within Riley’s head, but also precisely how they interact with one another, thus affecting her real life mentality, for better or worse. Sounds familiar, right? Docter commented that it took the team around four years to marry everything perfectly inside and out, and it’s hardly surprising given just how smart the whole thing feels. It’s a master class of conceptual and narrative development – and pretty damn funny to boot.
Conveying events is Pixar’s typically beautiful animation, rich in the sort of unrestricted colour and texture appropriate to anyone who’s gone so far as to imagine their own imagination. The flawless binding of the story and its characters with such a compelling visual experience stems from Pixar’s consistent ability to humanise any universe the guys and gals of the studio put their mind too. Here, it goes deeper; as they bring living, breathing personality, ironically, to the human mind. Through a blend of smart imagination and subtle realisation, the appearance and style of the characters and settings lend substantial weight to proceedings, taking you to a far away land that feels entirely logical at the same time, whilst also enhancing the sense of epic scale and quick-fire comedy alike. Aiding the animated talent are the counterparts in the recording booth, with the lack of household names reflecting the ensemble nature of the production and thematic superiority over a traditional lead character. Michael Giacchino’s score performs its duties and is certainly well arranged, but is not all that memorable upon leaving the auditorium.
There are a few gaps here and there overall which, to be fair, are actually difficult to place at first, such are the levels of anticipation and enjoyment. In the end however I think the final third was just missing the sort of powerful step up that sets the Pixar mega-classics such as Toy Story 2, The Incredibles, and Finding Nemo apart from the rest. In spite of some genuinely forceful heartstring tugging, the plot and final resolution glide into place smoothly enough that you’re not picking pieces of yourself up off the floor – a state induced by a number of the studios earlier hits. It’s hardly a major fault however, as films of the ilk listed are some of the greatest animated features of all time. In fact, I feel guilty even mentioning it; such is Inside Out’s majority quality and vastly loveable nature. Whilst it may be just a rung below those all time greats, it remains a unique, groundbreaking, thoroughly heart-warming production, with a big ol’ barrel of fun at its core.
Dust of the child within, prepare to have joy and sadness thrown quite literally thrown together, and go see it.
Original Release Date: 19 June 2015