With Amy Poehler (Joy), Mindy Kaling (Disgust), Bill Hader (Fear), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Lewis Black (Anger).
Riley lives in Minnesota with her parents. She plays hockey and has a best friend and acts goofy sometimes. She belongs.
When Riley moves to San Francisco because her father has a start up, things begin to unravel. She cries from homesickness on the first day at her new school. Her family’s things do not arrive on schedule. Her best friend back home finds a new hockey pal.
These are the incidents of the plot of Inside Out. But the action takes place elsewhere, inside Riley’s emotions. Her emotional core and memories are controlled in a headquarters run by five brightly colored characters: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. These five (are there others like Envy, Spite, Peace and Loathsomeness hidden in the back room, demanding subtlety and shading?) are dominated by Joy at first. After all, Riley has a pretty good life. Her parents care for her. She lives in a nice neighborhood, and has friends and a cool sport as her passion.
But Sadness, a blue glob with droopy hair, keeps threatening to upend the happy balance of Riley’s life. When she touches the glowing yellow orbs of Riley’s memory, they begin to turn blue, an indicator of sadness not just of the past, but for the present and developing future. Joy is constantly reminding Sadness to keep out of Riley’s hair. Joy has taken on the responsibility of making Riley’s life unremittingly happy. Such a burden! It didn’t take me long to feel that Joy needed to appreciate Sadness’ better qualities, things like honesty and empathy.
As Riley encounters her first truly difficult days– loneliness, alienation, homesickness– the five emotions panic and Joy and Sadness are thrust into a world outside headquarters, not unlike the strange new terrain that Riley is navigating in San Francisco. But outside emotional HQ where the view through glass was of the towers of family, goofiness, hockey, friendship, etc, nothing is safe, and memories are cast down into a dungeon and forgotten forever.
As I watched the story of Sadness and Joy finding their way back to HQ to bring Riley back to some kind of joy again, I thought of how memories, no matter how happy, can be the source of sadness because they remind you of the happy times you cannot relive. A yellow (joyful) time is automatically tinged with blue (sadness) because you cannot go back there. Deep memory contains things we cannot recall without great difficulty and here is where the unsung hero of the tale resides, imaginary friend Bing Bong.
The movie theater was crowded the day I saw Inside Out. Hundreds of people — old young and middle aged — thronged the theaters this fourth of July which was rainy and cold, not the perfect weather for parades and barbecue. A little girl about six years old sat to my right with her very young dad or much older brother. By the time Sadness needed to hug Bing Bong, the deep feeling permeating the theater sent the little girl into the comforting arms of the understanding grown up, and the seat next to me was empty.
And so another Pixar movie with its brightly colored animated characters perfectly captures the human experience. Special praise goes to Mindy Kaling for disgust — or is it the artist who matched the curl of the lip each time she snarled a withering comment?
My only complaint about the movie is the short movie, Lava, you have to sit through in order to get to the main feature. Its sentimentality, predictability and weak song are the complete opposite of Inside Out.