Inside Out – animated film review

Theatrical teaser poster for "Inside Out", from Pixar.
Theatrical teaser poster for “Inside Out”, from Pixar.

Inside Out is the story of 11-year-old Riley and the emotions inside her head: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. After a happy childhood, Riley abruptly moves with her parents from Minnesota to San Francisco. The move doesn’t go well. Riley feels isolated and miserable, as kids will when being new in school and unfamiliar with a new place.

Meanwhile, inside Riley’s head, Joy, Sadness, and all Riley’s core memories have been sucked from Headquarters into Long Term Memory. They must somehow get back to Headquarters, with the core memories, before everything in Riley’s head falls to ruin. Anger, Fear, and Disgust struggle to keep things functioning back at Headquarters, with wince-worthy, hilarious, and heart-wrenching results.

Inside Out is different from past Pixar releases. There are no apparent flashy, gee-wow, never-been-done-before animation techniques. The animation is excellent, but it’s not the star of the show.

The differences don’t stop there. It’s a general-interest movie (nary a princess or talking car in sight) with female protagonists. It has no real antagonist—and doesn’t need one. An antagonist would’ve been in the way of the story. Speaking of the story, Pixar knocks it out of the park with this one. Well out of the park, and possibly into orbit.

The main focus of the movie is on Joy, Sadness, and their journey, but all of the storylines (and any subplots that go with them) get enough screen time to feel satisfyingly well-developed. Inside Out has some surprisingly rich character development. It’s very easy to “feel for” the characters (those inside and those out), and it’s fun to see how the personified emotions inside characters’ heads in turn flesh out the characterization of the characters in whose heads they live.

A great deal of attention is paid to character growth, including for supporting characters. I particularly enjoyed watching Joy’s journey from ever-bubbly leader, through some heart-breaking learning moments, to a humble (yet still joyful!) team member who understands and values her fellow emotions. As an example of supporting characters, Bing Bong, the imaginary friend from Riley’s childhood, learns selflessness in ways that will make you weep. Seriously. It’s been a long time since I’ve so deeply regretted not bringing tissues to a movie.

Inside Out is full of beautiful moments that ring true. I found particularly touching the moment when Joy and Sadness—together—create the first of Riley’s new core memories.

A scene from Pixar's "Lava".
A scene from Pixar’s “Lava”.

A delightful short called Lava precedes the film. This catchy musical tidbit is about two volcanoes who fall in love. Does this sound implausible? You bet. But Pixar makes it adorable, and the Hawaiian feel to the music is just right for a summer release.

Inside Out is a great film for the whole family. Adults and children alike can enjoy watching it, and it gives viewers of all ages a lot to think about and discuss afterwards. I loved this movie and look forward to watching it again (and again, and again, probably) with my little boy.

Release Date: June 19, 2015 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Original Title: Inside Out
Language: English

MySF Rating: Five point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 100%


Alcohol/Drugs: 0
Language: 0 (though Anger offers to swear at multiple points)
Nudity: 0
Sexuality: 0
Violence: 1 (scary clown, supporting character dies)

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