“Inside Out” is an absolute joy of a film.
The latest Pixar entry is a highly creative endeavor that plays to the youngest audience, while also managing to tug at the heartstrings of even the most jaded adults.
This is a film that ranks up there with “Up” and the “Toy Story” franchise as one of the best films to ever come out of Pixar’s library.
The premise is simple – told from the point of view of the voices inside the head of a pre-teenage girl named Riley. Those voices each represent an emotion – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) – each helping to shape Riley’s persona.
When Riley is uprooted from the Midwest to California, the voices feel the need to make the transition smoother. But things go amiss when a mishap leaves Joy and Sadness stuck deep in Riley’s consciousness with the other three voices left to fend for Riley.
“Inside Out” may not be working with a unique set-up (I’m sure a lot of people remember the Fox series “Herman’s Head”) but it manages to open a new world in the most thrilling manner possible. The world inside Riley’s head opens the door to so many possibilities, and directors and co-writers Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen explore as many of those avenues as possible.
There are moments where we don’t just see what’s inside Riley’s head, but get flashes of everything from her parents to teachers to animals (part of a delightful extra scene during the credits). These teases of other worlds point to the start of a franchise that could explore different ideas and not just confine itself to the world of this young girl.
That’s not to say that Riley’s story isn’t interesting. It provides the emotional hook for the film, a thoughtful lesson on the transition from child to young adult – that awkward time in everyone’s life, made more awkward for Riley being the new kid in town.
As a parent, her story resonated, maybe more than any 2015 release to date – live action or animated.
It’s what lifts “Inside Out” to another level, making it an instant animated classic.
Opening this week
Another outstanding film that finally arrives in Bowling Green this week is “Love and Mercy” (A), the Brian Wilson bio-pic that features two Oscar nomination worthy performances from Paul Dano and John Cusack.
“Love and Mercy” takes place at two important times in Wilson’s life.
Dano plays Wilson in the 1960s, at the height of The Beach Boys’ popularity. While the rest of the bandmates are content with the success and touring, Wilson pushes himself to be more creative – while fighting demons that push him to the brink of a breakdown.
Cusack plays Wilson in the early ‘90s, a shell of his former self after years of drug abuse. Wilson is under the care of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), who controls everything in Wilson’s life – including his finances — until he meets Melissa Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks).
As the two try to start a relationship, Ledbetter discovers Landy’s abusive behavior towards Wilson, and tries to help him escape from that abuse and reclaim his life.
Oren Moverman and Michael A. Lerner’s script walks a fine balance between the two eras – with director Bill Pohad briskly moving the film back and forth.
Even if you barely know much of Wilson’s backstory, “Love and Mercy” is fascinating to watch. Seeing Wilson fight with his demons while constructing “Pet Sounds” is impressive, while the abuse from Landy and his father (who was bitter because The Beach Boys replaced him right before they become huge stars) is heartbreaking.
What takes “Love and Mercy” into the territory of greatness is the two leads – Dano and Cusack. Both bring their own memorable take as Wilson, two distinctly different performances that really show Wilson’s complexity.
This is a must for Beach Boys fans, but one that even non-fans will really appreciate.
“Love and Mercy” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, drug content and language and opens Friday at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12.