Pixar’s latest movie, Inside Out, takes the audience inside the minds of people so that we can get a glimpse of the various “voices” we all hear. Admittedly, when I first heard of this premise I was a bit nervous, but when the trailers started to come out showing all of the humorous characters that reside in the human mind (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger) it started to look like that this would be a fun frolic that all family members can go to and enjoy.
Director/Writer Pete Docter (Up; Monster’s, Inc.) and writer Ronaldo Del Carmen have come up with a truly original idea regarding the human mind. However, the story that we get on the screen doesn’t fully come together. There are parts of the film that are quite touching, not to mention brilliant, but those parts get derailed with other areas of the movie which seem to simply meander and not fully know where it’s supposed to go. It is almost as if this was a three-act movie, but with an only half baked act two.
When the movie opens we are introduced to who we believe is our central character, a 12-year-old girl named Riley who has had a truly happy and memorable childhood while growing up in Minnesota. When her family is forced to relocate to San Francisco the focus of the movie changes, and it’s less about Riley and more about the voices in her head. We see more of their actions and less of Riley’s emotional reactions. It is here that it starts to lose its way, as if the writers didn’t have enough story material for this part of the movie. It becomes about landscapes of the mind and story elements that are shoehorned in for the sake of jokes. It reaches a point where some viewers might actually be more concerned for the voices in Riley’s head, than for Riley herself, not to mention her family.
After the movie wanders in what looks like could be a psychological representation of the game Candy Land, the focus finally, and only somewhat, returns to where it started, back to Riley and her mental hardship. While the ending has a touching resonance that calls back to the beginning of the film, it is in the middle that connection is lost. During the journey DEEP into Riley’s mind we are witness to all types of chaos that actually had me wondering, what would this be doing to Riley’s psychological well-being? Has she spun off into a deep depression, or has she become totally emotionally numb? We really don’t get to see much of what is happening to her during this time, which then forced me to wonder about these things myself. In other words, the story in the movie took me out of the movie.
That’s not to say that this is a bad film. There are some great gags that had me laughing out loud, but they weren’t enough to carry me through the entirety of the film. Inside Out is a movie I wanted to love. Unfortunately the voice of disappointment in my head is saying, “This could have been better.”