You've heard me say it over and over again: this is the new Golden Age of animation. And you've also heard me say that Pixar is the undisputed leader in the field of animated pictures. There have indeed been some non-Pixar hits because, well, this is a golden age. But always, just when you thought the genre has peaked, Pixar kicks everybody in the butt and says, "Hey, look what you can do with this stuff."
Inside Out, Pixar's latest, is simply outstanding on every level. It is the story of a young girl, Riley, whose life is disrupted when her parents move from the Midwest to San Francisco. We see Riley in "real life" trying to cope with her new situation, but we also see Riley from the inside out, from the control center in her brain that is manned by her emotions -- the anthropomorphized characters of Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Anger. From this interior point of view, we see the emotional turmoil of her life, and how difficult it is to maintain healthy, balanced attitudes, and what happens when things get out of whack.
It is a wildly creative story. Within the first ten minutes of the film, you already know that it going to be unlike anything you've seen before. Not only that, but you also realize that it's going to be scary good. I remember being so impressed after the opening sequence that covers (quickly) Riley's birth and early childhood that I was almost apprehensive about what the film might do to me emotionally. It's was a kind of feeling that you get when you realize you're falling love -- you want it, but there is a little bit of fear about whether you can handle it. Seriously, it's that good of story. And of course the technical aspects of the animation and the art were flawless, as you might expect from Pixar.
This is not, by the way, simply a kid's story. There are concepts of psychological development that are portrayed that are really very complex, done in a manner as to be both highly entertaining and informative, and the mix was spectacularly successful.
Do I sound more than a bit impressed with movie? If I don't sound totally besotted with this film, I apologize, because I walked out of the theater full well convinced that I had seen the best animated film ever made.
Was it that good, really?
Go see this movie.
If there's anything that can put me off an animated film, it's commercialization of the "cute" characters. Lunchboxes! Cereal! Milk marketing board! Shoes, sunglasses, diapers, combs, t-shirts, canned spaghetti! Honestly, I'm so sick of Disney cartoon characters that I can't even look straight at retail products any more. For weeks, Inside Out characters were polluting TV ads aimed at children and parents of small children. I had no interest in seeing an hour and a half of product marketing, so I didn't even consider going to see the film on its opening day.
Then Bernie, who keeps abreast of new film releases, mentioned to me that Rotten Tomatoes had given a 98% approval rating to Inside Out. What? A Baby-Baby animated film gets a 98%? We'd just finished breakfast; I went to my computer and fired up my touchstone of opinion, IMDb.com. On opening day, IMDb.com gave Inside Out a rating of 9.1 -- ridiculously high. Hmmm, I said to myself. What time is the movie?
We got to the first non-3D showing a half-hour early, and with some searching (and my new trusty theater flashlight) found three seats together -- no mean feat as the theater was nearly full. Thirty minutes before even movie previews? Crazy! The crowd demographic consisted mostly of crabby mommies and hordes of children under the age of seven, and more crabby mommies competing with kids seven to twelve stomping up and down the theater stairs with bushels of popcorn and giant sodas and nachos and hot dogs. (There's a 10am California breakfast for you!)
I'm not sure what the baby-ish content of the advertisements for the movie, or the product hypes with the characters was supposed to be about, because those mommies with the toddlers must have had a nightmare to deal with. Inside Out is not a shake-and-rattle toy to distract the babies. It is a thoughtful, creative, detail-oriented presentation of a young girl's grief at the loss of her friends and home as the family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, California. And while it is colorful and well-paced, with clear dialogue and lots of action, it is very much a thought piece, about how our experiences affect our emotions, and how our emotions affect our experiences.
I wish every adult could see this movie. Might go a long way towards helping kids grow up.