Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Inside Out

I love the notion that within our bodies a team of worker bees are making every bit of physiology happen.   I envision a guy with a wind machine causing my sneezes, armies of grunts forcefully pumping blood to and away from the chambers of the heart.  One segment of Woody Allen's 1972 comedy EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX (BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK) even showed a group of workers inside of a man (about to engage in intercourse) winding a crank to facilitate, ahem, his arousal.  On quite a different note, in last year's INSIDE OUT, a Pixar production, the emotions of joy, sadness, anger, disgust, and fear within a preteen girl are represented by a motley band who are forever fighting for the control panel and argue over what reaction their host should exhibit at any given moment.  As Riley has just moved from her beloved home in Minnesota to the unfamiliar streets of San Francisco, our crew will be mightily busy.

Our "insiders" manage short and long term memories, namely, how key events are remembered, what emotion with which they will be associated. Sadness, a short, bespectacled blue girl tends to color everything with her morbid touch, much to the alarm of Joy, a svelte, cheerful spirit whose duty is to keep Riley happy in the face of so much, well, sadness.  And despite repeated warnings from the others, why does Sadness keep trying to make that early childhood remembrance  of a hockey game (among others) so dour? Near the end of INSIDE OUT, we will learn why.  It's an explanation that is insightful and rings with truth, as in most of the best Pixar films.

But before we reach that point Sadness and Joy will get separated from their comrades in the control room, left to wander among a labyrinth of stored thoughts and memories, all represented by colorful spheres.  There are also "core memories", the most critical of all, which power five "islands", each representing a part of what makes Riley, Riley: family, friendship, hockey, goofiness, etc. Without Joy to guide her, Riley becomes depressed, hostile even.  Not at all herself.  The other emotions recognize this but are powerless to reverse the situation, which grows surprisingly grim for a movie aimed at young kids.

And I feel that INSIDE OUT may be a bit too melancholy for the under 10s.  Even I was worn a bit by the movie, which admirably does not shy away from the dark places that every child passes through.  This would include dreams and nightmares, but in the great Pixar tradition, the pathos and scares are nicely balanced with humor.  Creativity too, which bursts from every seam of the movie.  I especially liked the trip through the tunnel of abstract thought.   As previous Pixars have made me tear up, I steeled myself against this but was again unsuccessful, particularly during a triumphant but poignant final scene involving Riley's old imaginary friend, Bing Bong.  The more you ponder that scene, the deeper (and sadder) it becomes.

INSIDE OUT has quite a voice cast, including two ladies from The Office:  Phyllis Smith as Sadness and Mindy Kaling as Disgust. Veteran Pixar director Pete Docter again gives the world a film to celebrate and share, even as we may wonder why the insiders in Riley's parents' heads are all the same gender as their hosts, yet not so in Riley.  Or why the ending feels a tiny bit rushed.  Or why Sadness and Joy both sport blue hair.

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