By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Pete Docter, the acclaimed Disney/Pixar writer/director is back and in great form.  His latest movie for the computer animation giant, Inside Out ,may not be his best work with D/P so far, but it comfortably sits high up in second place after his brilliant and entertaining masterpiece Up.  This time Docter and his extraordinary animators take a fun and big-hearted look at the different emotions that make humans tick or cause tics.  Inside Out  focuses on the life and emotions of an eleven-year old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) and what happens when a major change takes place in her life and her emotions go haywire.  Now, I’m not talking about THAT major change, but a key moment in her life when adjustments must be made and the worst of her emotions can get out of control.  I’m talking about moving to a new town and adjusting to a new school.

Riley’s father Bill (Kyle MacLachlan) must relocate his wife (Diane Lane) and daughter from Minnesota to San Francisco, as he discovers work there after father loses his previous job.  This sends the various emotions in her mind, scrambling to figure out the right plan of attack to deal with this major event.  Joy (Amy Poehler), the leader of Riley’s “Headquarters” and the one responsible for regulating her happiness, works diligently to maintain order.  Still, Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) can’t help but lose their composure. Things get really out of control when Riley’s Sadness creates a situation that could forever emotionally scar Riley for life.

Docter is a most welcome choice for helming this highly imaginative, witty, and even poignant film.  Just like he fleshes out the characters of Riley’s emotions, he and co-director/co-writer Ronaldo Del Carmen do exceptional work in conveying these real feelings with which most people have familiarity.  The very young kids may not get every reference, joke, or understand every human experience portrayed in the movie, but they will definitely love the bright and vibrant animation, and the simpler jokes and pratfalls that will make everyone else laugh as well.

Of course, the older kids and adults will relate to the scenarios and the emotional notes hit upon.  Docter has already showed his abilities to portray and express complex emotions during life-changing scenarios in the film Up, and he does just this well again in Inside Out.  Now, I have already read and heard quotables on TV hailing this an original Disney/Pixar concept, but please, this idea has already been used prior to the film.  Anyone, who remembers the Fox television series from the 1990s, Herman’s Head, knows this already. Still, to be completely fair, Docter, Del Carmen, and writing collaborators Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley do manage to outshine their predecessors and put their own creative spin on the idea.

As with all of the other Disney/Pixar films, Inside Out has an amazing voice cast the perform perfectly for their respective characters. In fact, I would think that because they performed so superbly, the recording sessions had to have been exhausting!  Amy Poehler literally is a joy to hear as she emotes so much positive energy and excitement, but must express Joy’s own version of fear and stress as well.  I have to say I was most impressed with her work here.  Lewis Black is perfect of the fiery hot  Anger, as are Phyllis Smith’s “Debbie Downer” Sadness and Bill Hader’s  neurotic-ridden Fear.  Mindy Kaling is also delightful and bring a cool, sassy, attitude to Disgust and finally, Richard Kind brings a whimsical jubilance to Bing Bong.

So, after the fun, but inferior sequel Cars 2 and prequel Monsters University, and their version of a Disney princess tale, Pixar has made a welcome return to fantastic family entertainment with Inside Out.  I know it is already too early to hail it as the best animated movie of the year, but so far, this film is in the lead and it will take something even more creative and original to dethrone this one.  With The Good Dinosaur due in November, audiences will have to see if Disney/Pixar can out do themselves in the same year.


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