The Best Films of the Decade: #2. Inside Out (2015)

| January 9, 2020
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The old decade is gone and, with that, I look back at the 10 best films of the 2010s. Today, my #2 choice!

This movie made me happy. I mean, genuinely and wonderfully happy.

As much as I complain about the state of American films as we press further into the 21st century – an era marked by remakes, reboots and Hollywood’s obsession with producing a ‘sure thing’, I must admit an overwhelming adoration for Pixar.  When this animation studio is at its best, they can create the kinds of magic that remind us of why we go to the movies, and I believe the kinds of movies that are going to be worth remembering in 300 years.

At the top of that, for me, stands Inside Out a grand and bold work of imagination and creativity, made by people who are not content to give the audience the bargain basement, but to offer something that is going to last.  Thematically, it resembles Toy Story 2 in that it is also about the pangs and stresses of growing up and losing the most valued trappings of childhood as adolescence washes ashore.

This is not the most original plot in the world.  The idea of the inner workings of the human brain have been the tapestry a dozen movies and TV shows.  I’m thinking of the early 90s sitcom “Herman’s Head” which had the same plot only the protagonist was a grown man.  There was the Eddie Murphy comedy Meet Dave, and horror adventures like The Cell and Identity.  I can also think of a bit once written by Woody Allen that takes place inside the body of a man during his mating ritual.

Yet, Inside Out is different in its approach.  It begins on the day that little Reilly is born and follows her through her developmental stages that are guided by the emotional states in her brain: Joy (Amy Pohler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black).  What her mind eventually evolves into is a complex of emotions, feelings, trains of thought, ideas, images, moods and memories. What she carries with her, what she keeps, and what she dismisses are at the core of this very impressive visual textbook, one that not only forms into a visual masterwork, but also one of the most creative and ambitious animated features in many years. This is what animated movies are all about.

The world inside Reilly’s head is one of the great places in the movies.  Her psychological states are represented by theme parks – her goofy side, her love of hockey and so one.  Even the fears buried deep in her subconscious make sense.  Yet, this world is always changing and there are elements that move in while others move out and are disposed of.  The tragedy of what happens to the trappings of childhood once Reilly has moved past them is a key theme here, expressed most achingly in the form of a circus elephant named Bing-Bong (beautifully voiced by Richard Kind), who once served as Reilly’s imaginary friend, but now lingers in the forgotten realms of her brain, always aware that he is many years late for the memory dump. Bing-Bong is a tragic figure who, much like Jessie the Cowgirl in Toy Story 2, is a figure whose purpose dried up long ago. He serves as a guide to get Joy and Sadness on board Reilly’s train of thought and back to the control center even though everyone knows his eventual fate.  This is an emotional journey in many different ways

This is a world created by writers and animators that aren’t satisfied to nail down their story to a pat formula or to whatever colorful bupkis they can sell at McDonald’s. The people behind Inside Out – that being screenwriters Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Peter Docter writing from a story by Reynoldo del Carmen – wanted to make something special, something that will linger in your mind. They’ve taken the animated genre and they’ve stretched it to the limit in an effort to create something special.  They’ve created a great journey, an emotional journey.  One that will last for generations to come.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2015) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized