Review – Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet Emotion (“Inside Out”)

I love Pixar. There, I said it. Their writing, animation team, directors, and studio is pure magic. From their humble beginnings with Toy Story to this gem, they have excelled beyond Disney’s animation empire. And now that they’ve teamed up, well, the sky’s the limit.

Pete Docter, who gave us Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc, and Wall-E has borrowed from his own childhood memories (and his daughter Elie’s) to direct a moving and hilarious story of an 11-year-old hockey-loving girl named Riley Anderson (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias). She and her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle Maclachan) have moved from Minnesota to San Francisco for dad’s new job. She’s none too keen on the idea, and neither are the emotions in her head: the teeth-gritting Anger (Lewis Black), always nervous Fear (Bill Hader), snooty Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and manically depressed Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The only perky one of the group is the leader, a blue-haired, Tinkerbell wanna-be named Joy (Amy Poehler).

Joy tries to keep the others in line inside Riley’s mind, especially when they try to take over with their wild ideas and suggestions. But it’s a tough gig, what with Riley’s new home, a new school, and no friends. After a disastrous first day at school (she cried in class), it creates a sad, marble-like “core memory” orb in her head, a first for her emotions to see! Panicking, Joy tries to protect Riley from the sad memory and tries to get rid of the blue sphere of unhappiness, but she and Sadness accidentally get sucked away from Command HQ to the vast Long Term Memory part of Riley’s mind. Uh-oh!

With Riley feeling more and more depressed about her life, her special “islands”(Family, Hockey, Goofball, Friends, Honesty) representing her personality, are in serious jeopardy. As each day goes by with Joy not on duty, each island crumbles away into nothingness as Riley succumbs to depression. And wouldn’t you know it, Joy and Sadness are having the worst luck trying to get back to HQ. When all hope seems gone, Riley’s old imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind) shows up! He suggests taking the Train of Thought to HQ, but getting there requires going through Imagination Land as a short-cut. Joy must regain control of HQ and re-insert the happy core memory orbs she has with her into Riley’s mind before it’s too late!

Meanwhile, Anger gives Riley a desperate idea: runaway back home to Minnesota! Fear and Disgust agree and Riley plots her escape by bus. Now it’s a race against time for Joy and Sadness to get back to HQ before Riley gets on that bus and does something she’ll regret forever! There’s adventure, nail-biting excitement, hilarious moments and sight gags (especially in the ‘dream sequence’), and a heart-warming finale that’ll make you cry. . .guaranteed.

Written by Docter along with Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, this gift from Pixar is more for the parents in the audience then the kids. Oh sure, the kids will get the goofy stuff and silly wordplay, along with identifying in Riley’s plight, but mom and dad will love the parental inner thoughts, delicious double-entendres, and seeing a little bit of themselves in both the child as well as the adult. Okay, so Bing Bong is a silly plot devise whose real name should be Mr. Deus Ex Machina, but I didn’t care. He added flavor and a nice third act distraction. Once again, the Pixar story works on every level, engaging both adult and child in the audience. It took the writing team about three years to finish the complex plot, but it was worth it.

The voice actors are perfect, as usual, with Amy Poehler and Lewis Black giving the best of the voice acting, while Bill Hader sounds alot like Wallace Shawn (Rex from Toy Story). Yes, John Ratzenberger is there for good luck, and listen for Muppet icons, Frank Oz and Dave Goelz as Subconscious Guard’s Frank and Dave. The CG is impeccable with a beautiful and timely life-lesson thrown in for good measure. The patented Pixar “make ’em laugh, make ’em cry” formula is in full-force here, people, so enjoy! These guys are truly magicians.

Before the movie, enjoy the Pixar short, Lava, about a lonely Hawaiian volcanic island that sings a song of hope of one day finding his love. There’s no dialoge, but the ukelele Hawaiian music is very nice and makes this short film cute, fun, and tugs at your heart. Awwwwww. . .

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972)

Hang with me until the end of this review for the comparison okay? It may seem a little unorthodox comparing Inside Out with a sex comedy by Woody Allen, but you’re gonna have to trust me on this one. . .

Inspired by the book of the same name by Dr. David Reubens, director/writer/actor Woody Allen spun this into a collection of vignettes that became one his highest grossing and funniest comedies. There are seven questions asked in this movie (What is sodomy? Do Aphrodisiacs Work?), and each is answered in a screwball way with Allen starring in many of them alongside some great stars!

The first is Allen and Lynn Redgrave as a medieval fool who tries to seduce his queen with a love potion, only to be foiled as she wears an ancient chastity belt. There’s a crazy segment with Gene Wilder as a prominent doctor who falls in love and ends up having an affair with (are you ready for this?) a sheep! A terrific homage to Italian film-making with Allen (speaking only Italian!) who marries Gina (Louise Lasser), a woman who can only reach orgasms when having sex in public.

There’s a cute story about Sam Musgrave (Lou Jacobi), a middle-aged married man, who likes to wear women’s clothes. He and his wife go to a luncheon with rather strange results. How about a bizarre black and white TV game show parody of What’s My Line called What’s My Perversion, starring real game star host Jack Barry, and a panel of stars including a  young Regis Philbin. My favorite is a wildly concocted tale with Allen as a researcher who visits a sexual mad scientist (John Carradine), who accidentally unleashes a gigantic monster breast! Yes, a killer breast (it squirts milk!!) on the rampage like Godzilla!

But the last one is the best: we go INSIDE OUT (toldya!) of a guy’s mind who’s on a date and we get to see what his emotions are up to. The NASA-like mission control center in the man’s brain, led by Tony Randall, features Burt Reynolds as his operator. When it looks like the man is going to “get lucky”, they all go into action, shouting out commands to other parts of the body. The stomach tries to clean the fettuccine alfredo he had for dinner, as the (ahem) nether regions gear UP to achieve an orgasm. Allen plays a soldier-like, white-uniformed sperm who’s being coached and dispatched, paratrooper-style, into the great unknown! Hilarious!

For 1972, and a modest $2 million budget, this naughty little film grossed an amazing $18 million and cemented Allen as a prolific filmmaker in his early career. This was just before he did Sleeper (1973) and Love & Death (1975), which gained him his foothold in American cinema.