Movie Review: Inside Out


[Disney Pixar’s Inside Out has been in theaters long enough for me to be a little loose with a spoiler; it’s not earth shattering, but it does give away a small plot point. Reader beware.]

Movie poster source:

Movie poster source:

I always look forward to the Pixar movies — they just don’t disappoint. My all-time favorite is Up, followed by The Incredibles and Brave. I know, how could I leave outToy Story? Hey. It is what it is. I like them all, except Wall-E. I found that one to be a little too preachy — kind of like the ending in Happy Feet, but I digress.

Other than that, I think Pixar hits home runs on all the features, and even the shorts (didn’t you find Lava delightful?).

How do they do it? How do they produce tender, touching, get-you-right-in-the-heart films? Easy, they tell stories that appeal to the child in us, through the lens of an adult.

As adults, we understand bitter sweet.

Whether or not we can articulate it, we understand that life is complex and that we can entertain a multitude of feelings and emotions at the same time.

I noticed something in the credits all the way at the end (yes, I am Marvel- conditioned to wait and hope for a final scene). The writers dedicated the movie to their children, with the wish they won’t ever grow up. That’s sweet, but inevitable.

See what I mean?

Inside Out explores this co-existence of conflicting emotions. The story arc then moves us through how the characters come to terms with this conflict. It works because as human beings, we struggle with conflict daily.

Disney Pixar happens to do this masterfully with clever characters, and animation that is at the top of the industry.

The story itself is funny and engaging.

A young girl, Riley, moves with her parents away from everything she knows and loves and settles into a new place filled with unknowns. We see her emotions come to life in her brain — five rather funny manifestations of Joy, Sadness, Disgust (she’s my favorite), Fear, and Anger. The emotions sometimes fight to gain control of the board that drives Riley’s actions, and other times, they work together to get an end that is best for Riley.

©2014 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Joy, who was the first emotion on the scene when Riley was born, has a hard time letting go of her control, wanting everything to always be happy for the little girl. When it backfires due to an ever-present creeping Sadness and the emotions spiral away from the control center, Riley’s safety is compromised, and the emotions, isolated and at odds with each other, must work together to find their way back where they belong.

Their adventure toward the control center is filled with clever references to thought processes, including a hilarious explanation for earworms and a funny gag about deja vu.

Because the other emotions are driving Riley, they are making a mess of things, and the core values driven by her memories are collapsing. She’s losing the love for her friends, her passion for hockey, and finally, her family.

It’s on that adventure that we experience a beautifully touching scene. Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong, appears just in time to help Joy and Sadness get to the control center.

Joy’s desperate efforts to get back to the control center are thwarted and she’s sent, along with Bing Bong, into a pit of forgotten memories. It’s there that Bing Bong realizes that by staying behind, forgotten, he can give Joy the impulse she needs to return to the control center. Bing Bong shows his love to the end, and lays down his life for his friend, and Joy escapes.

Sacrificial love.

Pixar gets this right time and again in its movies — this idea of a sacrificial love. It’s definitely touching, but I wonder if they are aware of how deeply it stirs thoughts of another sacrifice.

I’d give this film two thumbs up. It doesn’t drop Up out of first place for me — but it’s definitely worth watching for the laughs.


Copyright 2015 Maria Morera Johnson.
Movie poster via
“Joy” copyright 2014 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.



About Author

Maria Morera Johnson, author of My Badass Book of Saints, Super Girls and Halo, and Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped Me Grow in Faith and Love writes about all the things that she loves. A cradle Catholic, she struggles with living in the world but not being of it, and blogs about those successes and failures, too.

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