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"Inside Out" Blu-ray Review

Pixar has been rather mediocre lately. Their last unqualified great movie was The Incredibles way back in 2004 and since then they've had several decent, if inconsistent, efforts like Up and Wall-E, and some really lame stuff like Monsters University. So thoroughly has their previous reputation of being consistently excellent been shaken that there was a lot of overpraise for Inside Out, which is good, but not that good.

The problems begin with the premise itself which seems wholly borrowed from the 1991-94 sitcom Herman's Head which had actors portraying facets of the title character's personality. This time we're inside the head of 11-year-old girl Riley, whose family family has relocated from Minnesota, where she played hockey and had friends, to a creaky house in San Francisco. Leading her personality crew is Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) who is all bright and sunny compared to blue Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), red Anger (Lewis Black) and green Disgust (Mindy Kaling).

Memories are represented by bowling ball-sized spheres with really important moments becoming Core memories, so of which lead to fanciful "islands" to form, in Riley's case Goofball, Friendship, Hockey, Honesty and Family. When an accident leads to Joy and Sadness and a bundle of core memories being sucked out of Headquarters into the vast tracts of Long-Term Storage, Riley's personality is reduced to Fear, Anger and Disgust attempting to run the show with predictably poor results.

While Joy and Sadness attempt to get back to HQ, they traverse whimsical manifestations of psychological concepts like dreams, memory dump, imagination and (in its most "kids ain't gonna get this sequence") abstract thought. Meanwhile the others manage to make hash of Riley's life in really short order, so drastically I'm surprised the parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) didn't suspect their kid being on drugs.

While there are some big laughs and clever visuals, there is this creeping sadness and a weird conclusion that sadness is most important for happiness which is a head-scratcher. Too many bits fall on the obvious side of the stupid-clever like (e.g. the Train of Thought is a train, get it?) and are pitched to kiddies. Director Peter Docter's previous film, Up, had similar tonal issues as it veered wildly from terribly depressing (the brilliant opening sequence) to really frightening (capturing Kevin) to broadly silly (dogs in biplanes?) and he really should've picked a side and stuck with it.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable.


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