Is there any place more different from Minnesota than San Francisco? It’s a city that smells of Pacific fog and urban smog with odd trash regulations and weird pizza shops. It’s almost impossible to get around the city with a car and on top of all that, it doesn’t snow.
“Inside Out” is the latest film from Pixar that deals with the same kind of depth and emotion that hasn’t been seen from the studio since “Wall-E.” Directed by Pete Docter, it explores the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) as her family relocates to San Francisco.
Her emotions are controlled in “Headquarters” by her four emotions Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader) and Anger (Lewis Black). Together, the four emotions help Riley create memories that are represented by spheres of either yellow, blue, green, purple or red depending on the emotion attached to them.
From here the mind becomes as intricate – in both scope and simplicity – as a Miyazaki film. In the center of Headquarters are the core memories that define who Riley is as a person. Beyond Headquarters is a labyrinth of memories from her life that when they are not lingered upon often, are chosen to make room for other memories.
Beyond the file cabinets of memories is “Imaginationland” which is the home to Riley’s imaginary friend Bing-Bong (Richard Kind) and an imaginary boyfriend who will die for Riley (and also lives in Canada). Dreams are the result of Dreamland Productions, set up like a backlot with creative and talent – including the star of “Fairy Dream Adventure: Part VII” Rainbow Unicorn – walking amongst each other.
Only Pixar can make a movie about characters that represent one emotion and make them multi-dimensional. None of the five core emotions mean any harm to Riley, but they all cause it. It is soon realized that all five have to work together to get Riley through this difficult chapter of her life and that she shouldn’t rely on any one emotion. Disgust will always be followed by anger. Sadness creates empathy that makes way for joy or fear.
Stuffed to the brink with SNL alumni — which result in quick wits, it is a voice cast of the highest order. Lewis Black naturally fits Anger when exclaiming, “Congratulations, San Francisco! You ruined pizza!” But the star of the show is Phyllis Smith. Smith has always played sad roles (most notably “The Office”) but she brought a kind of energy to the character that no one else could.
But “Inside Out” is not just filled with all age appropriate humor. A background conversation between Riley’s parents about what the green trash can actually means had me laughing the hardest in the film. Parents will enjoy this film because “Inside Out” was made with the insight of a parent. This wasn’t made as a way to make money, it is pure art with a view of life that could only come from the minds at Pixar; a studio filled with people that have a love for all forms of animation, and all aspects of life.