Another poignant, funny, brave and intelligent film from Pixar. This is sheer brilliance.
Joy (an energetic Poehler) is one of five emotions controlling eleven-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias); living inside her head, Joy keeps Riley happy, organises memories, and keeps the perfect balance between herself, Sadness (a wonderfully dumpy Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), who, annoyingly, get their hands on the controls once in a while. Everything has been hunky dory for the ice hockey-loving kid from Minnesota until Riley's parents move her to San Francisco and Sadness contaminates some core memories, turning happy memories into sad ones. After a mishap Joy and Sadness journey into Riley's subconscious to restore her happiness, leaving the others in charge...
It's a beautiful and simple message - all our emotions are needed if we are to be fully functional people. That might be heavy stuff for kids but as always Pixar don't talk down to their core audience, who will love the array of neon colours and imagination on show, like how Pete Docter (Monster's Inc., Up) visualises memories. Riley's recollections are colour-coded bowling balls that roll about her compartmentalised mind and form her personality. But later, happy memories become infused with other emotions to create new takes on the memories; a purely happy memory, like playing hockey dad, can now, through nostalgia, be tinged with sadness. But that doesn't make it a bad memory. You can't always be happy. Being sad or angry or scared is just a part of growing up. This is great stuff.
Despite the Lewis Carroll-esque trip into Riley's subconscious, escaping the dark pit of her forgotten memories and a saunter through her imagination, Docter (Monster's Inc., Up) manages to keep things grounded. And when there's a danger that things get too heavy, he throws in a gag: with Riley a morose figure as Fear, Disgust and Anger calling the shots, Docter takes a peek into her parents - Diane Lane and Kyle Maclachlan - minds to see how their five core emotions are doing. It's only when the gang pass through the chamber of abstract thought that Docter threatens to get too surreal for his own good but Inside Out continually surprises throughout.
The scene involving Riley's forgotten imaginary friend Bing-Bong (Kind) rivals any of the emotional highs of Pixar's best: When She Loved Me from Toy Story 2, the final shot of Monster's Inc., and ‘that' montage in Up.
One of the best of the year.