Happy-go-lucky 11-year-old Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias) has her life turned upside down and inside out when she and her parents move to a new city. Lonely and without friends, Riley begins to feel down. The lead emotion in her head – Joy (Amy Poehler) – does what she can to help Riley through this hard time, but Sadness (Phyllis Smith) can't keep her hands off Riley's happy memories. That's the premise to Inside Out, a bright, funny and deeply moving computer animated feature from Pixar. Rounding out the voice cast of Riley's feelings are Bill Hader as Fear, Lewis Black as Anger and Mindy Kaling as Disgust.
Fritz: So...Pixar's done it again. Why is Inside Out a triumph alongside its many other classics?
David: The reason that Inside Out is brilliant is that, like many of the Pixar films before it, it delves into human emotions in thoughtful ways that ring true. The Toy Story films deal with all the colors of childhood. Inside Out vividly captures loneliness and depression, and even though this is a spirited comedy it is never condescending or goes for an easy way out.
How do you think children and teens will react to the themes of the movie?
Fritz: The film's candor in telling children that sadness and anger are valid, necessary emotions is refreshing since we live in a society where messages like "the glass is half full" and "look on the bright side" are shoved down our throats at all times. Small children will enjoy it because, like all of Pixar's best, the resonant themes are integrated with some top-notch verbal and physical comedy. The kids will like the slapstick humor and the bright colors. The scenes involving Bing Bong, Riley's long-lost imaginary friend, might make them sad, but...if they handled similarly heavy scenes in Big Hero 6, Up, and the like, they can handle this.
Do you think teens will see this? When I was a teenager, I missed out on Beauty & the Beast and Aladdin in the theater because I thought seeing animated films when I was at the worldly ages of 13 & 14 was beneath me.
David: I think it's a part of childhood to see and deal with heavy scenes in animated movies. It makes you stronger. As a child, I was disturbed when Bambi's mother got shot, and I was freaked out when the beautiful but wicked queen transforms into an ugly old woman in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
I do know that teenage girls are more hip to animated films, so they will definitely see it. Boys, however, may be reluctant, but Pixar films kind of have a reputation of being a bit "cooler" than most other animated films, so let's hope for the best.
Inside Out is incredibly imaginative. It's ingenious and often very funny how the world inside of pre-teen Riley's body works, and how her feeling, Joy, has to travel through all these aspects of the girl's life to get back to central control. Which moments did you like best?
Fritz: I love the concept of blue collar worker guys going through all of our memory banks, deciding what to keep and discard, and periodically sending annoying songs into our consciousness just to be jerks. I was also a big fan of the dream studio and the occasional glimpses we get into the minds of supporting characters.
I think young children will watch this and enjoy it. But when they get older, they'll re-watch it and love it for different reasons. It's rare to find a movie you can enjoy as a child, adolescent, and adult all for separate reasons. For some reason, I'm thinking of the 1987 Steve Martin comedy Roxanne. As a kid, I loved all the slapstick and the jokes about his nose, but as I got older I understood his pain and loneliness. And as an adult, I picked up on even more nuance and more layers. Do you have a movie from your childhood you feel that way about?
David: Off the top of my head - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. As a kid I enjoyed the excitement of the space battles, but as I grow older I appreciate more its themes on the evolution of life and, in particular, aging and how Kirk deals with such things.
Fritz: My final thought/shout out to the film is to praise its efficiency. It covers a lot of plot and thematic ground in just an hour and a half. In an era where summer blockbusters routinely push the 140-minute envelope, aspiring writers and directors could learn a few lessons by watching Inside Out.
David: Exactly. It's a nice, compact movie that never feels rushed, but has a clear plot and well-defined characters. It's a wonderful film for all ages.