There’s no denying that Pixar has been in a bit of a slump lately. After producing more than a decade’s worth of animated critical hits, their last few films have mostly missed the mark. Luckily, Inside Out is their most original and inventive film in years. It’s vibrant, energetic, colorful, emotional and a lot of fun from start to finish. With an awesome cast of voice actors and a clever concept, director Pete Doctor is able to make the inside of a young girl’s mind come to life. It brings up a lot of unique ideas and some of them aren’t as fully explored as they should be, but viewers will be having far too much fun to sit back and analyze the logistics of it all.

Riley is a young girl who has five distinct emotions that control everything inside her head: Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). These emotions work together in the headquarters of Riley’s mind to give her the best possible life experience and so far their job has been free of any major problems. But when Riley’s parents decide to move from Minnesota to San Francisco, Riley becomes upset and a string of mistakes cause Joy and Sadness to get kicked out of Headquarters. Without Joy in Headquarters, there’s no chance of Riley being happy, so they must find a way to return there as quick as possible and cheer Riley up.

This is definitely one of Pixar’s more difficult concepts to pull off, especially with kids, but the first 10-15 minutes of the film do a solid job at explaining everything and allow the viewer to grasp all the different aspects of this unique world. That being said, the exposition that is delivered by Joy at the start of the film isn’t able to fully explain everything as much as one would hope. Certain aspects of the mind feel like obligatory inclusions, but they never make much sense in the grand scheme of things and instead feel like they were only included to be clever. There is no better example of this than the Train of Thought. We’re introduced to the Train of Thought early on, but its purpose is never really clear. At one point it drops daydreams off at Headquarters for Riley to use during school, but other than that, we never really learn what the train actually does. Is it a metaphor for all of her individual thoughts? If so, why does it seem to only infrequently stop at Headquarters? The joke of having an actual train for the Train of Thought must have been too good to pass up, but this is just one of the few examples of an aspect of Riley’s head that doesn’t feel strongly developed.

Luckily, most of the other aspects of her head are actually fully formed and contribute to the film’s story and its central personification in unique and clever ways. The different islands that make up Riley’s personality, the area that contains abstract thought, the representation of different memories and the way that those memories slowly fade are just some of the ideas that the savvy screenplay brings to the table. It also doesn’t hurt that the film is visually stunning, full of bright color schemes and creative art direction that deftly brings the world of Riley’s mind to life. But all of this cleverness and beauty can’t hide the fact that the story taking place in the “real” world is extremely simple and one that we’ve seen a million times before. I’m not saying that it needed to be any more complicated, but it’s pretty obvious where the story is going from the beginning and the overall message of the film isn’t as groundbreaking as some people are making it out to be.

But as a movie for kids, the film works wonders. It’s an entertaining watch from beginning to end and the talented voice cast elevates every single one of their characters. Every emotion feels perfectly cast and most of the laughs come from the delivery of the voice actors. Some of the humor in the film does feel a little obvious, almost as if throwing in every single pun or sight gag that has something to do with the mind would translate into humor. But kids are bound to enjoy it and audience members are likely to feel the emotions of the movie, thanks mostly to Michael Giacchino’s beautiful score. It may not be groundbreaking enough to change the way we view emotions, but Inside Out still remains a delightful animated treat.

Inside Out receives 3/4

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