4.5 stars
In the sensational, Oscar winning Up, Pixar's Pete Docter wrote what was possibly the best short montage in animation history. It was sweet, tender and emotionally courageous as it detailed the life lived and lost love of an elderly man.
It was also a terrific counterpoint to the hugely entertaining lunacy that filled the rest of the film. Now they're at it again, and while Inside Out may not quite achieve that career defining, heart-wrenching moment, it more than makes up for it with a smart, witty and wildly inventive story about lost love and living life.

Step inside the mind of eleven year old Riley. You're in HQ which is run by a tight-knit group of emotions led by the irrepressible Joy. She is helped (and occasionally hindered) by Fear, Disgust, Anger and Sadness whose collective job it is to keep Riley in check and ensure she builds a bank of healthy, useful memories. For the most part they're doing a good job, even when Riley's family moves from the Mid-West to San Francisco; challenging times as they are. But when Sadness quite literally drops the ball and a number of core memories are sent to the dump by mistake, Riley begins to shut down and fall apart. In a race against time, Joy and Sadness leave HQ to relocate the memories, and restore order.

Docter is a formidable talent whose credits also include Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Wall-E: basically the best of Pixar's catalogue which Inside Out now joins. For here is an outwardly simple tale of incredible depth and complexity whose central message - it's ok to be sad sometimes – is a welcome reminder in our headlong tilt at happiness.

As Joy and Sadness make a perilous journey to the memory dump, there's an echo of Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth in the fantastical creations and impossible places they find lurking inside the young girl. Creatures like Riley's long forgotten invisible friend who cries boiled sweets, or places like Abstractland where the well-rounded characters are deconstructed to within a pixel of their being. Not that this is derivative, this invention has all the hallmarks of Docter's deliciously funny and piercingly smart sensibility.

Add the studio's blazing graphics to the story's crazy-daft appeal and Inside Out shapes up as one of Pixar's best. But if you put that aside for a moment and consider the tangible reality of Riley's family discord plus the innate humanity of Docter's story-telling, you realise that the beating heart of this film is the respect paid to the inner turmoil of a young mind. As an adult it's not easy being happy, or being good, or knowing what to say, or what not to say. Nearly impossible when you're only 11. This is the story's intelligence; the realisation that all feelings, while not always welcome, are always valid. It kicks his film into goal.

While the emotional devastation of Up is hard to beat, Inside Out talks to a different audience with a voice just as strong, just as clear and just as crazy-daft. It has the capacity to change the way we think about thinking, and feel about feeling. And that is something quite extraordinary.


Previewed at Event Cinemas, George St, Sydney, on 11 June 2015


Amy Poehler
Phyllis Smith
Bill Hader
Lewis Black
Mindy Kaling

Pete Docter
Ronaldo Del Carmen

Pete Docter
Ronaldo Del Carmen



94 minutes

June 18, 2015
Inside Out (2015) on IMDb