This post contains spoilers, be warned!I've been very excited for Inside Out ever since I first heard about it. It was a concept that I could get behind. I've always found emotions interesting and seeing them interact within someone's head sounded like the most intriguing thing to come to film in years. Pete Docter being named director also piqued my interest, given that he has directed two of my top three Pixar movies. Take that level of interest and add in superb reviews that heralded Inside Out as the best thing to ever come from Pixar and I had very high expectations for this movie. In retrospect, maybe too high.
For me, the film was incredibly smart and original, however it failed on some basic story aspects, pace being a big one of those. The story seemed to drag at the start, as so much needed to be explained and built up for the story to even make sense. I'm not sure what Pixar could have done to fix this, but I'm sure that there's something. That particular problem continued for me throughout the rest of the movie as well, after Joy and Sadness embark on their journey. The slow pace made me just want to get moving, which probably hurt my sympathy for the characters, who I ended up not caring about as much as I should have. The only characters I really felt for were Sadness and Riley. From the start I was annoyed at Joy. Bing Bong, meanwhile, struck me as a villain. I've read that the animators wanted him to appear suspicious at first, to throw the audience off, and that may have worked too well for me. I was so suspicious of him that I never developed any positive feelings for Bing Bong, and so his sacrifice did not have as big of an impact on me as I'm sure it was supposed to.
My major problem with the film is that I felt like they went in the direction of having Riley become depressed, but didn't actually commit to it. She went into feeling nothing only for a moment, and they never actually named depression as what that was. Of course it would have been difficult to deal with the topic of depression while keeping the film family friendly and entertaining for young children, but as someone who's struggled with that illness it felt cheap of Pixar to glance at it and have it serve as a plot point but only have minimal screen-time and mention. I was also left wondering if everyone goes through that sort of experience in order to feel complex emotions, or were Riley's emotions just not aware of how they were meant to function? Clearly they had guide books, and they had read them all, so surely if that information were included there they would have already known that. That is a question that will bug me for a very long time.
All of that being said, the film was still fantastic. The concept is brilliant, as expected from Pixar, and all of the settings inside of Riley's head are beautiful and so, so smart. My favorite parts of the film were definitely whenever the various emotions were gathered and interacting. I was excited every time that we went back to check in with Anger, Disgust, and Fear and absolutely loved watching them attempt to keep Riley going. (Although I did feel that Disgust wasn't necessarily strictly disgust, as the social aspect seemed more like something that Fear should have dealt with.) I also really loved the interactions of Riley and her parents. Their family dynamic was fantastic, and that's something I wish we saw more of in film. Sadness was by far my favorite character. She was so complex and so well done, and the voice acting of Phyllis Smith was absolutely phenomenal.
My absolute favorite scene, however, was when Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong enter Riley's abstract thoughts. It was a very brave thing for Pixar to veer so far away from the overall look of the film for that sequence, but the use of different art and animation styles was executed perfectly and created what I believe is one of the most original and daring scenes in animation.
Clearly my emotions are mixed in regards to this film. There were many things that irritated me and still bother me when I think about them. I'm left wondering if maybe Pixar bit off more than they could chew this time around, picking a concept that perhaps needed a longer amount of screen time and a more mature target audience to excel. However, I'm also in awe of how creative and beautiful this film was. The story was still very touching and had very funny moments throughout. Overall, Inside Out was an A- when I expected an A+.