By Laurie Coker

Rating: A+

Growing up is hard to do – no doubt. Middle school is particularly difficult and if you add to that a big life changes, like a big family move. Pixar takes viewers in to the preteen mind of Riley, an adorable, hockey loving young girl whose life is turned upside down when her parents move her from Minnesota to San Francisco, California – a place that might as well be the moon. Not since UP and Wall-E has Pixar addressed real life issues with such story telling prowess. 

Riley loves her life in Minnesota, but tries to keep up a brave face when her parents take her far from her friends, her team and her home. Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) wants to keep Riley’s life happy and joyful. Sadness (Phyllis Smith) has her role, as do Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Louis Black) and Fear (Bill Hader), but Joy works very hard to not let the other emotions overwhelm. In an accident in the “control room,” Sadness and Joy are sucked up a memory tube and stranded in Riley’s long-term memory storage area. There they try to make their way back, discovering along the way, that Riley needs to feel all aspects of her emotions. When she does not, “lands” (Goofy Land, Friendship Land, Hockey Land and Family Land) begin to break apart. As time passes and Joy and Sadness struggle to get back, lands begin to crumble and Riley’s life is thrown in to emotional chaos.

Pixar touches on some extremely real subjects here. Through Riley and her parents, and most importantly, through Riley’s inner emotions, viewers experience an honest look at what may very well go on in the mind of a youngster,  one who is devastated and whose parents want a brave face. This story, simple, sweet and sensitive, touches the heart.  There are lessons here, valuable for the children in the audience, but perhaps more importantly for their parents.

Inside Out’s voice talent is exceptional, perfect, in fact and the animations, as is expected from Pixar, is perfect too. Colorful and symbolic imagery make the emotions come to vivid life – Joy looks much like a fairy, Sadness a frumpy, blue, spectacle wearing sad sack, Anger a deep red, flame spewer, Disgust, a purple fashionista, and finally, Fear a scrawny, nervous nelly. Each has a vital role in Riley’s mind. Her feelings are all of our feelings. Pixar captures and offers up emotions in away that touches each of us. We have all been Riley, some of us more so, but we have most certainly been there.

Inside Out earns its PG rating, when is gets a tad serious, but my grandson got it and appreciated it. My granddaughter, only four, enjoyed the color, the characters and surprisingly, asked some key questions about Riley’s actions and what was going on in her head.  Pixar and crew have a remarkable way of digging deep into real issues and doing it with equally remarkable grace and humor. From me Inside Out earns an A+. It is wonderful!

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