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Movie Review: 'Inside Out'

By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Upside down, downside up, or outside in, Inside Out is something special.


(3½ stars out of 4!)


The setting, if you can call it that, of this witty and poignant cerebral animated adventure is inside the head of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, voiced by Kaitlyn Dias.

But we become acquainted with the life of Riley through her five primary emotions: Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black).

We all have these voices in our head, implies the film, but these are the particular voices in her head, coming from Headquarters, the control room in Riley's mind, where reside these advice, approval, memory, and warning dispensers that answer the ever-present question, "What is going on inside her head?"

But there's rarely any kind of consensus among the expressive quintet.

A hockey-playing tomboy living happily with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) in rural Minnesota, Riley hits a number of emotional speed bumps when her dad gets a job in San Francisco and Riley and her parents relocate.

And on Riley's first day of school -– a trial, passage, or nightmare for anybody in the best of circumstances -– Joy and Sadness find themselves inadvertently ejected from Headquarters at a time when Riley most needs their guidance.

Instead, she'll have to get everything from the three emotions left behind (that would be Fear, Anger, and Disgust), and the downbeat triumvirate decide that perhaps Riley should run away from home.

As psychologically or philosophically intimidating as any of this sounds in a kidflick –- and we're talking about scenes in Imagination Land, Long-Term Memory, and the Subconscious, among other non-geographical places -- the script makes it play smoothly and clearly, even if some of the material disenfranchises the little ones ever so much.

For those of us, however, who either used to be children or confront them on a daily basis, it's as resonant as can be.

Writer-director Pete Docter (Monsters Inc., Up), with Ronnie Del Carmen serving as co-director, plays not only to the youngsters in the audience, but to grownup viewers with memories of childhood; in other words, everyone.

The script by Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley does a remarkable job of presenting a parade of intricate, esoteric, and even abstract notions and concepts and ideas, and somehow making it register and flow.

With its universality and popularity yet to be determined, Inside Out emerges as a refreshing burst of artistic originality during a summer dominated by sequels.

Inside Out may not have the crisp narrative through-line or the emotional oomph of such animated Pixar classics as Toy Story or Finding Nemo, but its levels of inventiveness, insight, and indelibility are downright dizzying.

So we'll emote 3½ stars out of 4. You can leave your anger, fear, disgust, and sadness behind on this trip.  Inside Out is a joy to behold.

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