Story: Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is an 11-year-old girl with a joyful life in Minnesota with her two loving parents. She’s a silly but honest kid with great friends and a love for hockey, which she plays regularly. A move to San Francisco turns her world upside down as she is separated fro her friends, spends less time with her father (who’s busy with some sort of business deals), has a bad first day at her new San Francisco school, gets frustrated at local hockey tryouts, and slowly gets more introverted as she watches what she thinks to be the destruction of her life. This self-doubt is brought on by the emotions in her head that kind her feelings and decisions each day: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader). Joy is obsessed with making every day, every hour, every second of Riley’s life happy and great. These good memories can sometimes result in core memories, which help form the basis for who Riley is as a person (like he first successful goal as a kid hockey player). After the bad day at school causes the apparently first ever sad core memory to form, Joy attempts to remove it at the behest of Sandness. This results in an accident that sucks Joy, Sadness, and the core memories out of the HQ and into different corners of Riley’s mind. With the different aspects of Riley’s personality slowly shutting down one by one (like her love for hockey, her friendships with friends back in Minnesota, and her relationship with her parents) Joy and Sadness must get back to HQ as soon as possible if they hope to reinstall Riley’s core memories before she loses herself in the identity and emotional crisis she has found herself in. But while Joy is convinced she is the only one who can fix the problem and get Riley back to her old-self, maybe making Riley happy isn’t the solution this time.
Thoughts: It’s rare to have a kid’s film that so accurately depicts emotional confusion and depression in a way children can understand. Inside Out successfully does that in a way I’ve never seen through the characters of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear. The mental landscape director Pete Docter creates and then steadily destroys as Riley’s depression and confusion grow is amazingly accurate, as is the film’s message about the importance of sadness and how you don’t always need to be happy. This is certainly the most mature of Pixar’s films to date. The heavy subject matter is made appropriate for kids. I wouldn’t say little ones will necessarily understand all the nuances of the film’s emotional themes, but they’ll understand the important bits. I think kids receive and deliver emotions better than adults, especially really young ones whose brains haven’t fully developed and whose primary tool is their emotions. So what better audience for this emotional ride that will teach them and maybe even their parents a healthy way to keep in touch with their emotions that are all vital to our identities and what makes us us.