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Film Review: 'Inside Out' - Balancing Emotions

Pixar channels the little voices in our heads with Inside Out

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(L–R) Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) in 'Inside Out.' (Disney/Pixar)

Have you ever wondered what’s going on in someone’s head? In Pixar’s newest release, Inside Out, we meet the key emotions of Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias), an 11-year-old girl (and hockey player!) whose family has just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco.

Joy (Amy Poehler) is the motivating, sees-the-positive-in-everything leader that enjoys her day-to-day task of making sure that Riley is happy. There’s also Fear (Bill Hader), who assesses situations to keep Riley out of danger and also adds a bit of slapstick humor. Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is a bit sassy and keeps Riley from things she deems unpleasant. Anger (Lewis Black) likes things in Riley’s life to be fair and gets heated when they aren’t. And then there’s Sadness (Phyllis Smith), whose purpose the other emotions don’t entirely understand, especially Joy.

Joy is like a never-ending bundle of energy that likes to make plans and set them into motion, whereas Sadness tends to be more lethargic and has tasks dictated to her. 

Joy takes pride in the fact that for most of Riley’s life, she’s been helping create happy memories for Riley to look back on, which also include her core memories. The core memories make up the different aspects, in the film’s case, islands, of Riley’s personality (family, friends, hockey, goofiness, etc.). 

The change in locale for Riley sends her emotions into flux as they all try to handle facing these new experiences, from living in a new city to going to a new school and making new friends. When Joy and Sadness (and the core memories) get sucked out of Headquarters and into Riley’s long-term memory, Fear, Disgust and Anger are left at the helm. Hello, adolescence. 

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(L–R) Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), Anger (voiced by Lewis Black) and Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) in 'Inside Out.' (Disney/Pixar)

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(L–R) Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader), Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) and Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling) in 'Inside Out.' (Disney/Pixar)

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(L–R) Mom (voiced by Diane Lane), Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) and Dad (voiced by Kyle MacLachlan) in 'Inside Out.' (Disney/Pixar)

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(L–R) Joy (voiced Amy Poehler) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith) catch a ride on the Train of Thought in 'Inside Out.' (Disney/Pixar)

As the duo set off on an adventure back to Headquarters, Joy begins to have a better understanding of Sadness and how, as emotions, they are both necessary for Riley to be happy. 

The film is a superb example of the emotions we experience when dealing with the curveballs that life sometimes throws our way. Simply put, Inside Out is tremendous. There are bright colors and adventure taking place in the inner-workings of Riley’s head, which is so much fun to watch. There’s a good amount of humor, which shouldn’t be surprising when you have some of today’s top comedy actors and actresses voicing these characters. 

What may grab audiences the most is that the character of Riley is completely relatable. Director and screenwriter Pete Docter said that the character is inspired by his own daughter when she was about 11 and went from being a spirited kid to being more quiet and removed, which resonated with him and led him to wonder what was going on in her head. 

Relatability is what makes Inside Out special. The audience gets a humorous take on the emotions we experience, but at the same time, there’s an opportunity to come away with something more meaningful; becoming more in tune with yourself.