CIT Casting Review: Inside Out

love and family: the forever foundation of the delightful films created by Pixar

**Caution: May Contain Spoilers**

Pixar is showing its true colors with this summer’s groundbreaking, heartfelt and deeply moving animated feature Inside Out. This is a story that lingers well after you leave the theater, sparking personal reflection and endearing childhood memories. Peter Docter, director and creator of the story, based this flick on real-life encounters with his daughter and his consistent fascination with what was going on inside her head. This highly inventive and vibrant flick seems to be somewhat of a comeback for the studio. The last couple years have consisted of monopolizing on previous successes, creating the sequels to Cars and Monsters Inc. These were not, however, on the level of such brilliant platforms of storytelling such as Up! and Wall-E. Inside Out gets right back on track with the charm and sincerity we love about Pixar; with Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust being our sidekicks through this extraordinary journey.

The setting of the movie takes place in the mind of a spritely little girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias). We open up with her first day on Earth as she’s looking into her parent’s eyes with feelings of safety and happiness. This is when we are introduced to Joy (the delightful Amy Poehler) who is the control leader of Headquarters. As Riley grows from a baby to a little girl, other emotions, like Sadness (Phillis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), come into play to help with the decision making of Riley’s existence. What starts out as very young and basic reactions quickly evolves to more complex emotions, with all the characters battling over who should control the situations. The story unfolds with Riley developing different personalities as she processes life and makes decisions based on her emotions, with her core memories (little golden balls that glow and are stored in a circular compartment) being a main focus in Headquarters. The scope in this film is huge, for not only do we have characters that we follow in the real world, but we are shown an accurately depicted (while color-coded) inside look on how the brain and memory bank actually work. As Riley turns 11 some new changes start to take place, much to the dismay of her emotions. She struggles with adapting to a new move to San Francisco from her small town in Minnesota, along with saying goodbye to her friends and beloved hockey team. The emotions turn into a frenzy to keep Riley balanced and happy; and when Sadness is compelled to start messing with her “happy” memories, turning them blue, she and Joy are catapulted into the abyss of long term memory to save Riley’s Personality Islands and get her happy again.

Along with sticking to their theme of lightheartedness, fast-paced chase scenes and witty humor, Pixar has a clever way of making the children the main focus while having an underlying tone that resonates well with adults. The seamless blend of comedy and drama calls for narrators who have impeccable comedic timing while embodying the sensitivity and child-like essence that make these stories come to life. Mindy Kaling is perfect as Disgust, using her dead-pan humor and valley girl charm to pull off the teenage angst of her character. Bill Hader plays the uptight and usually frantic Fear, while still maintaing a big brother-like quality that makes him incredibly likable. Reading the voice of Anger, Lewis Black is the most unpredictable emotion, with fire shooting out of his head regularly as all of the others are constantly attempting to cool him down.

Joy is the emotion that keeps everything running smoothly while making sure everyone is working as a team. Amy Poehler possesses the qualities of a little girl bursting with energy while being perfectly capable of keeping the gang in line and rules in order (Parks and Rec). As Riley’s Personality Islands start deteriorating because Joy isn’t running the control room, she is forced to drag the reluctant Sadness with her to make everything right again. Their journey has somewhat of a Wizard of Oz-like cadence to it, as they travel through Imagination Land and meet all kinds of crazy characters along the way. While on their way to Headquarters, Sadness is overwhelmed with depression, and Joy struggles to understand why she is the way she is. Phillis Smith gives her character a humorous Eeyore-like, melancholy quality, moaning and groaning about the perils of life and how awful everything is. The two meet Bing-Bong (Richard Kind), Riley’s old imaginary friend, who helps them to the train so they can take a shortcut back to HQ. On their way the three are trapped in Abstract Thought, turning them into 2D blocks as they struggle to make their way outside of it. Pixar dazzles us as we are taken into a Surrealist-Picasso world of fragmented art while using psychological references as they make their way to the train. It’s especially funny in the ways that the three actors deliver the lines- with Smith explaining what is technically happening to them – taking us on a ride that is both hysterical, tragic and hopeful at the same time.

It is obvious that the filmmakers did an extensive amount of research on the psychological aspects of the film. One small glimpse into this concept is the showing of the team distributing the short term memories into the long term memory bank while Riley is sleeping. The audience is initially on board with Joy and her happy ways of gearing Riley’s life, but as the movie continues and we are with Riley through this difficult transition, we realize how important Sadness is. As she talks to Bing-Bong with empathy when he is dealing with the fact that Riley may forget about him completely, Joy realizes that Sadness is special in her own way, that all of the emotions are. We understand that Riley’s memories are capable of balancing a dynamic of happiness and sadness. As Riley continues to let her emotions come through her, we realize that we do have a choice as to which emotions we bring to the forefront. These filmmakers have set forth and created something to put on the big screen (with the help of some very talented actors) that emulates our own life…represented in a brilliant, otherworldly kind of way that brings tears to our eyes and melts our hearts.

 The concept of happiness is something that we all struggle with: to find our own meaning. This gem of a film succeeds in this concept and gives us a universal conclusion that we are all on a bit of a Roller coaster called Life, and our experiences and choices through those experiences make up who we are…with love and family being the forever foundation of the delightful films created by Pixar. Get ready to laugh and cry your way through the inventive storytelling of Inside Out.

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Jess