[Screen It]


(2015) (voices of Amy Poehler, Lewis Black) (PG)

Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

Computer Animated Comedy/Adventure: The various personified personalities inside an 11-year-old girl's head must contend with changes in her mindset and behavior that starts to send her down the wrong path of life.
Riley Anderson (voice of KAITLYN DIAS) is an 11-year-old girl who's just moved with her Mom (voice of DIANE LANE) and Dad (voice of KYLE MacLACHLAN) from Minnesota to San Francisco. Inside her head, her various emotions -- Joy (voice of AMY POEHLER), Sadness (voice of PHYLLIS SMITH), Fear (voice of BILL HADER), Anger (voice of LEWIS BLACK) and Disgust (voice of MINDY KALING), all personified as living beings -- react to this change. While the rest have varying degrees of negative responses, all of which affect Riley's behavior in the real world, Joy tries to keep a positive outlook on things and thus prevent Riley from creating any new negative memories. Those cognitive recordings of her past and present, are stored as balls that first pass through the emotions' control center. They then end up fueling various personality islands that ring the control center before heading down to long term memory. Those that don't make it there end up falling into a chasm known as the memory dump where they dissolve and are forgotten forever.

Joy seems to be keeping things under control the best she can considering the circumstances. But when Sadness touches Riley's core memories, and seemingly forever clouds them with negativity, the girl starts acting differently. Things become even more dire when Joy and Sadness end up sucked through a memory ball transport tube down into long term memory. With the help of the memory of Riley's imaginary friend from long ago, Bing Bong (voice of RICHARD KIND), Joy tries to find a way back to the control center before Riley's outward personality -- now in the hands of Anger, Fear and Disgust -- spirals inward, turning her into a bitter, sullen and depressed pre-adolescent who might just think about running away from home.

OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
It's not uncommon for people to ask about someone else's behavior, "What in the world were they thinking?" While that can apply to most anyone in any age group, it's quite common for parents to ask that and other related questions to or about their children.

Kids and their sometimes exasperating behavior usually gets a pass in the younger years (newborns who won't sleep or stop crying, toddlers terrorizing in their terrible twos, etc.) since their thought processes aren't fully formed or developed yet. Older kids, however, are not above reproach.

That's especially true in the teen years when mood swings and defiance are rampant, but that age group usually starts showing such colors in their later prepubescent years. And it leaves many parents not only wondering what happened to their previously wonderful, delightful and charming kids from just a few years earlier, but also pondering what the root causes might be.

Is it nature's way of having parents feel the need to kick the kids out of the nest? Are hormonal changes to blame? What about outside influences, such as friends or what they see and hear on TV, in the movies, through video games or social media?

According to the movie "Inside Out," much of it's due to having personified versions of various emotions (consisting of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust) inside the "control room" of one's head, along with their interaction with each other and reactions to external events in the life of their human subject.

Those cause memories, and those cognitive nuggets fuel various personality traits that appear as island lands circling the control center. When two of those emotions are removed from the equation inside an 11-year-old girl's head after she moves with her parents from Minnesota to San Francisco, all heck starts to break loose and it's up to Joy, with the help of others, to save the day before it's too late.

This isn't the first film to depict small beings inside others (beyond the likes of "Fantastic Voyage" and any number of demonic possession flicks there's been "Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex" (or at least one segment of that Woody Allen film), "Meet Dave" and "Osmosis Jones," among a few others). Like parts of that latter film, this one is animated, albeit in the always terrific visual style we've grown accustomed to seeing from the folks at Pixar.

After a couple of releases that didn't quite live up to fans' lofty expectations built up by past offerings, this is a return to form from the creative studio. As directed by Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen from a script Doctor penned with Josh Cooley & Meg LeFauve, the pic works on multiple levels and will play well to all ages, although in different ways for each.

For kids, it will be another lively and funny adventure-comedy, with plenty of fun characters, decent action and various levels of comedy to appease such younger audiences. The sweet spot, however, may be adult viewers who could quite likely view this as a companion piece to the "Toy Story" trilogy in regards to looking back at elements from one's childhood, and fondly experiencing memories, some of which may have otherwise long since been forgotten.

And for psychologists, child development specialists, and anyone -- professional or amateur -- who wonders exactly what makes all of us tick, it's an engaging, creative, funny, heartwarming and all-around winning look at how the brain works, how memories are formed and then stored or discarded, and what happens if there isn't a balance between emotions.

In covering all of that ground, the filmmakers have delivered a film that -- like all or parts of some of its best Pixar predecessors -- touches on the human experience in ways that makes the story and its characters connect with the viewer beyond simple entertainment or intellectual stimulation.

The pic will likely affect many a viewer to their very core (in a good way) and help them remember that their past is made up of various emotions, all while helping explain and explore the changes all kids go through while growing up (not to mention offering funny, stereotype-laden asides about what goes on inside men and women's heads, as well as that of cats and dogs).

Beyond the top-notch visual effects, the vocal work is terrific, with Amy Poehler getting the lion's share as the de facto leader of the emotions, while Phyllis Smith is a hoot as the Debbie-Downer of the bunch and Lewis Black steals every scene (in his trademark, seemingly vocal cord destroying style) in which his Anger character appears. Richard Kind gets some poignant moments as a long-forgotten memory of an imaginary friend, while everyone else is solid from start to finish.

I heartily and highly recommend "Inside Out," a film that kids will find funny and adventurous, adults can view alone and get misty-eyed about the past, or families can enjoy together, with plenty of fodder for things to talk about after seeing it, including why everyone's acting the way they are. The film rates as an 8 out of 10.

Reviewed June 10, 2015 / Posted June 19, 2015

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