Are you the type of barren, childless adult who feels weird going to Pixar movies by yourself? Well...maybe you should. BUT! I strongly advise you to put those feelings aside (or rent a kid from your neighbors or the Duggar family) and see Inside Out, Pixar's latest kids' movie that's actually for adults.
If you've seen the trailers, then the basic plot may remind you of that early '90s Fox sitcom "Herman's Head," in which four little characters—representing Herman's psyche—controlled his actions from inside his brain. Inside Out is almost exactly like that, except 50,000 times smarter, funnier, and heartfelt.
Eleven-year-old Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) has experienced a seemingly perfect childhood, until her father is forced to uproot the family and move them to San Francisco. (It's important to note that Inside Out's version of San Francisco is unlike any romantic, cinematic representation of the city you've ever seen. Here it looks more like Detroit, circa 1985. Not good.) The little characters controlling Riley's emotions from inside her head are voiced by a laundry list of comedians (most of whom were graciously provided by NBC sitcoms): Amy Poehler represents Joy, a perky sprite who spins every potentially bad memory into something positive, while Phyllis Smith is Sadness, who's basically a genetic mutation of Debbie Downer and Velma from "Scooby-Doo." The remaining emotions include Mindy Kaling as the sarcastically vain Disgust, Bill Hader as the jittery Fear, and comedian Lewis Black basically playing himself as the hotheaded Anger.
Inside Out explains the inner-workings of the brain in a fun, fantastical way: The memories in Riley's head roll around like marbles, matching the colors of the emotion they hold—joy is gold, sadness is blue, etc. These marbles fuel floating islands that represent various aspects of Riley's personality (goofiness, family bonds), while other memories are filed away in deep storage or forgotten, disappearing into a dark, bottomless pit where they never return. Inside Out's central conflict is between Joy, who wants all of Riley's memories to be happy, and Sadness, who is mysteriously driven. despite herself, to infect Riley's recollections with melancholy.
Much of the film's humor—and there's a LOT of it—centers around this colorful world's explanation of how the brain works. And while some of the Psych 101 stuff may fly over the head of the kid sitting a couple of aisles up, Inside Out contains some of the smartest one-liners you'll hear all year. But at its heart, the movie is a poignant look at that tender moment in time when a child makes the difficult transition into post-pubescence—when they first discover that uncomfortable juncture between happiness and sadness, which adults call "bittersweet."
Inside Out, for all it's crazy funhouse style, also makes a rather profound case for the importance of all emotions—how each one has a necessary function to produce well-rounded humans, and why trying to bury any one of them is never a good idea.
If you have a 10 or 11-year-old, take 'em. They'll easily recognize themselves in Riley and spend the last reel of the film sobbing uncontrollably. But rest assured, that mist will definitely find its way into adult eyes as well, in between waves of thoughtfulness, laughter, and recognition.
Director Peter Docter, Ronaldo del Carmen
Opens Thursday, June 18