Inside Out (2015)

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_posterIn a generation often bloated with unoriginal ideas, Pixar has been one of the most prominent fountains of creative inspiration. Pete Docter has always been a master class storyteller (“Monster’s Inc.” and “UP”), but “Inside Out” finds him at perhaps his most innovative yet if you can believe it. Not everyone would be audacious enough to make their latest animated film on the inner workings of the human psyche. A film following a girl and her emotions could easily be insensitive or some downer emo tale at best.

However, Inside Out ends up being a wonderful and heartfelt film that comments on a difficult time in life without making the parents flat out buffoons or the children complete jerks. It finds a great deal of its substance in the personified emotions, positive and negative, that course through a young 11-year-old girl on a daily basis. Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and most certainly Disgust.

From the get go it looked to be a veritable field day for stars like Amy Poehler, Mindy Kalig, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, and Phyllis Smith. In other words, the casting was impeccable and everyone delivers the goods.

As Pixar so often does, the characters are wonderful and the writing develops a tirelessly inventive world full of creative entities for the main players to bounce off of. Our two main settings are essentially San Francisco and the mind, and both come off pretty well, although by default the mind becomes the visual playground of abstraction that lends itself to the most mirthful moments as well as touching enlightenment. San Francisco is the city that ruined pizza. That’s pretty bad.

Above all, I think Inside Out makes a powerful suggestion to its audience. Going in we have a certain set of presuppositions. We live in a society that says joy is good. Sadness is bad. Among other things. However, this film dares to point out that all emotions have their places. All of them are meaningful and there is a season for each. Because as it turns out, without Sadness, you really would not be able to know what true Joy feels like. And that is a beautiful thing. Overall, this is not the best of Pixar, but it is a wholly memorable outing, especially when we are allowed to get inside the heads of each character. That’s when the story is at its creative best. Those jingles in commercials are really annoying too. They really struck a chord with that.

4.5/5 Stars

UP (2009)

This Pixar film, starring Ed Asner and Jordan Nagai, follows a retired gentleman, who keeps his promise to his deceased wife by traveling to South America. Carl Frederickson met the love of his life in Ellie, and they got married. However,  pretty soon they were in their later years and Ellie died. Carl wants to keep his promise, and so he heads to South American in his balloon-propelled house. Along the way, he has an energetic boy named Russell thrust upon him. Over time they become friends as Russell tries to help Carl so he can earn a Wilderness Explorer badge. Russell befriends a talking dog named Dug and a giant bird called Kevin, while Mr. Frederisckson accepts their company begrudgingly. But they do run into trouble, and so they have to rally in order to save Kevin from his captors. Although this story seems sad at first, it quickly becomes heartwarming with the addition of Russell. He helps to breathe new life into Mr. Frederickson, and more importantly, they form a relational bond. This is probably the best Pixar film since Finding Nemo.

It always strikes me how wonderfully unassuming this film is. If you told me that a film about an old man traveling to South America in a balloon-propelled house would be this gripping, funny, and heartwarming, I certainly would not believe you. But time after time UP is a joy to watch.

It has one of the moving opening sequences in recent memory, and it does it with pithiness. This is the first sign that this is something special. Each and every time I always find the score so whimsical, and it seems to fit so perfectly with the concept. Another marvel of this film is Russell, the spunky Asian-American kid in pursuit of his assisting the elderly badge. He is a hilarious little boy with a lot to say, and he says it with such expression and energy, which really shows through the Pixar animation. A shout-out must also be given to Kevin and Dug because Russell is the standout, but the film would not be the same without this pair of quirky creatures.

Most importantly, the younger generation learns from the older generation, and in turn, I think Carl learns valuable lessons from his young companion. It is very important to never forget our past, but perhaps more important is making something of our future and living in the present. It is a new type of buddy film that reminds us that friendship, as well as adventure, are out there, we just need to go and find it.

5/5 Stars