WE ARE living in a golden age of storytelling, if you know where to look.
This year’s list of summer blockbusters has featured its fair share of damp squibs, and there is a general sense that audiences are becoming restless with the perennial parade of superhero sequels and gormless action movies.
Of all the cinematic genres, it is kids’ films that are consistently nailing it. Creating a narrative for kids involves casting aside anything superfluous, and distilling the plot and characters down to the purest possible level.
They are tough films to create, and Pixar is one of those studios that seem to have the knack.
Inside Out is the latest original film from the award-winning Californian studio.
It follows Riley, an 11-year-old girl who is going through a tough time – her family have moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, and that means settling into a new school and a new house and establishing a new circle of friends.
But that is only the tip of the iceberg; while all these changes are happening in the outside world, we are mainly concerned with the action that is going on internally for Riley.
Inside Out is a film that is all about emotions – well, five in particular: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.
Joy (voiced by Parks and Recreation’s Amy Poehler) is the driving force in Riley’s internal world.
Effervescent and unfailingly positive, Joy manages to spend most of her time at the helm, controlling the console that processes Riley’s day-to-day experiences, subsequently dictating how she will emotionally respond to them, and therefore influencing the kind of memories she will form.
Riley’s processed memories – little colour-coded orbs – zip around in her internal world, being stored appropriately in conscious or unconscious memory banks, and now and then big life experiences will produce a “core memory”, which causes a mental structure to sprout up.
These core memories and the structures they create inform the type of personality that Riley has.
It is a wonderful, stripped-down representation of a psychological framework that anybody can grasp, and one that is made all the better for some incredible casting – Lewis Black is perfect as Anger, as is Bill Hader for Fear.
The raucous interchanges between the emotions as they battle to control Riley’s reactions is written with such skill that kids and adults will often find the same joke appealing on entirely different levels.
Pete Docter, who writes and directs, brings the same balance of emotional intensity and comedy that made his earlier work – including Up, and Monsters Inc. – so formidable.
Here is another film that is unafraid to set foot in some of the darker recesses of the psyche, exploring massive and important themes in a clever and compassionate way.
Without divulging too much of the plot, it is hard to stress what an important film Inside Out is, but rest assured that not only is this a wonderfully entertaining 94 minutes, it will undoubtedly go on to be a rite of passage for future generations.
In much the same way that Toy Story made us reflect on what childhood really means, and Up made us think about the importance of relationships and friendship, Inside Out will make you think about how and why you react to the world in the way that you do.
Do yourself a favour, and kids or no, go see this. It is an important film, a charming wake-up call for a culture obsessed with the mindless pursuit of happiness.
It is progressive, beautiful, and incredibly entertaining – a proud moment in storytelling, and an emotional education.