“Inside Out” is a moving and Oscar worthy return to form for Pixar

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Up until a few years ago, the annual release of an animated feature from Pixar was greeted with much hype and a sense that the company could do no wrong. Then, a couple of less than universally beloved flicks came out and the brand was running the risk of no longer being the gold standard for animated endeavors. Well, now that Inside Out is on its way to audiences this Friday, I can say that no only is this a return to form for them, it’s one of Pixar’s best yet. One of their most ambitious, Inside Out is in some ways their most mature effort as well. It’s really something to rave about.

With a hugely high concept premise, this one rivals anything else from the studio in terms of ambition. Inside Out tells the story of preteen girl Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias), who is uprooted from her comfortable Midwest life and moved to San Francisco by her parents (voices of Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan). In her head, her emotions, which happen to be Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling), and Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) struggle to decide how best to navigate a new city, house and school, and literally life. Also among the voice talent is Richard Kind, Bobby Moynihan, Frank Oz, and Paula Poundstone, while Peter Doctor co-directs with Ronaldo Del Carmen and co-writes with Del Carmen, Josh Cooley, and Meg LeFauve. Pixar mainstay Michael Giacchino composed the score, with the end result truly something that’s special.

Part of what sets this apart from other modern animated fare is the embracing of mature emotions that goes on here. Inside Out isn’t afraid to make the case that sadness is a part of growing up, and as such is an essential emotion to deal with. There are moments here that are as emotionally affecting as anything Pixar has ever done. It’s not an overt tearjerker or anything like that, but they earn those few moments that might threaten to open up your tear ducts. Pixar and Doctor especially have long been adept at this, but it’s as subtly done as ever in Inside Out.

That’s not to say that Inside Out isn’t funny, because it is. In fact, one of the final jokes is a visual gag around the time of the end credits that features a cat and elicited more laughter out of me than nearly anything else I’ve seen so far in 2015. The humor is on point, serving the purpose of this complex film. As just a straight comedy or just a straight drama, this likely would not have worked. It’s the integration of all facets of human life that makes this the full meal that it is. The folks at Pixar dreamed big with Inside Out, so it’s thrilling to see it as the huge success that it is.

Awards wise, I think we have our far and away frontrunner for Best Animated Feature here. In fact, I think a case could be made this will contend for a Best Picture nomination. I don’t know that it will do it, but I believe Inside Out will hang around for much of the season. There’s also a case to be made for Best Original Screenplay (for Cooley, Del Carmen, Doctor, and LeFauve), as well as Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Score (for Giacchino). I would be shocked if Animated Feature isn’t a surefire nomination as well as a win, but it’s early enough that anything can still happen in that regard. Just know that this is definitely a player to contend with.

Overall, Inside Out is an absolute delight that will work equally well for children and grown ups as well. Adults might “get” more of it, but this is the type of emotional adventure that is geared towards the whole family. Pixar never seeks to exclude anyone, so part of their rollicking success here is how they make a deeply experimental and downright weird at times film so accessible. It’s a big tent, with everyone invited. The film opens this weekend, so make sure that you give it a look. It’s one of the ten best releases of the year, that much is certain…

Be sure to check out Inside Out on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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