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Inside Out

Inside Out:

Can we stop crying wolf about the so-called "decline of Pixar?" Pixar is a company, and like all companies, it has good films and bad films. Other than Cars (the one that nobody seems to like anyways), every Pixar film made dring their golden age, from 2001-2009 (Monsters Inc. to Up) was directed by one of three men: Pete Doctor, Andrew Stanton, and Brad Bird. These three all put out consistently amazing Pixar movies, and they haven't declined at all. Starting in 2010, Pixar tried to push a new generation of directors through the door. It's a similar path to Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki and Takahata were knocking it out of the park every single time they made a movie, but knew that they couldn't work forever, so they dedicated themselves to the next generation. The first project from a new director worked, in part because Miyazaki still had an involvement, but newer directors with less control from the original pair resulted in worse movies. In America, Stanton and John Lasseter got to play mentors during Toy Story 3, the first "next generation" Pixar project, which was fantastic. The ones that followed (Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters University), all films led by rookie directors and without much involvement, received mediocre reception. Brad Bird basically spurned the company because he wanted to do live action movies instead. This left Pete Doctor, director of Monsters Inc and Up, as the lone original leader making original movies (Bird and Stanton have since signed up to direct sequels to their older hits). I don't know why everybody was so skeptical about this, or why people were shouting that Pixar was dead, but Pete Doctor could make a great film at any studio. The surprising thing is that I would think Inside Out is the best Doctor movie yet.

Inside Out might not be original, but it is wildly imaginative. I'm not referring to Herman's Head, a crappy television show that people complain did the "emotions inside of a person's head" first (which it still didn't. The idea was used before that show in the Disneyworld attraction Cranium Command.) The plot itself is derivative of Toy Story and to a lesser extent Finding Nemo, where two characters who don't like each other are abandoned together and must make a journey, through which they will learn to like each other. Personally, I don't mind using a recycled plot as long as you take the ideas in a new direction, which Inside Out definitely does. Unlike anything I can think of, Inside Out is almost a psychology class, taking emotional and mental concepts and creating clever visual representations of them in a way that will allow children to understand it. The world-building showcased is outstanding, and maybe my favorite aspect of the film. Brilliant is the only word I can think of to describe how the writers describe the ideas of dreams, depression, ideas, and abstract thought. Something like a literal Train of Thought is nothing new, but representing abstract thinking with an empty space in which physical things and compressed into fewer dimensions is, and my favorite part was the changes in animation style to represent this. I love how different people have different emotions in the center of their control panels. Children are led by Joy, because they're happy and innocent, but the bus driver who has to move them is led by Anger and their teacher is led by Sadness. It simplifies these concepts for kids, but never dumbs them down. It respects the intelligence of youth, willing to think that they can actually learn from their entertainment instead of filling space in their brains with Minions. This is far smarter than nearly every "adult" movie I've seen in my life.

The characters are all great. Some questioned the ability of the emotions to show a range of emotions. They handle that by giving doubt to all emotions. Joy is never sad, but she is often unsure of how to make things happy. The moral of the story is that sadness is good. Sadness as a character is abused in the early stages, making Joy kind of unlikable. The film is smart enough to show how always trying to be happy can destroy a person inside. All of the emotions are also very funny. The jokes themselves are very good, but they're accentuated by the talented comedic actors saying them. Lewis Black as Anger and Phyllis from The Office as Sadness are the best casting choices that anybody could ever hope for. Anger especially is consistently hilarious. Bill Hader plays Fear, who doesn't have a huge role but does get a great scene where he gives a terrible review of Riley's dream as if it were a movie. Riley herself doesn't get very much to do, but for the purposes of this film that works fine. Then there's imaginary friend Bing Bong, and I have nothing to say about Bing Bong except that he is lovable and complex and yes I cried during that scene. The emotions that I felt watching these emotions were intense. This film makes you feel like a kid and then makes you sad that you're not still one. It's the most affecting movie I've seen in a while.

Technically, Inside Out is marvelous. Pixar's animation is back to innovating, finally stepping out of the huge Dreamworks shadow. Joy is not traditionally animated, instead existing only as a three dimensional outline with a light center providing the color and textures. I can't recall seeing any other animated character model like this. The backgrounds are all gorgeous, and the giant structures inside of Riley's head look amazing. There are scenes where massive buildings are falling, and the impact and grandiosity of it all far exceed any disaster movie I've ever seen. It was impressively crisp and real, and it's by far the best 3D animation to ever come out of the Disney banner. The score is simple but sounds wonderful, and matches the raw emotion of the film perfectly.

Taking the very best ideas of Inception and mixing them with professional psychology, Inside Out is the most clever movie Pixar has ever made. It's also their most emotional, their funniest, and quite possibly their best. A deserving potential winner of Best Original Screenplay awards, this is an instant classic, a gorgeous and genius masterpiece of filmmaking. It's not just for both kids and adults, I think adults will love this much more than kids. Kids can enjoy the jokes and pretty animation, but adults can appreciate the brilliance used in the ideas, and the emotional impact is benefited by nostalgia. It's even more rewarding for those who remember being a kid than for those who still are.