Monday, 20 July 2015

Inside Out

It's only fitting that Inside Out should nudge Force Majeure off the top of my ongoing Best Films Of 2015 list: the latter is a film about how shitty it is being a grown up with the world on your shoulders, while Pixar's latest nimbly captures the shittiness of actually doing the growing up and feeling the world forcing itself onto your shoulders in the first place. Of course the two films aren't remotely comparable, making my list a tedious exercise in futility, but Inside Out features a character called Bing Bong who is part elephant, part cat, part dolphin and part candy floss so it deserves to take pole position for that reason alone.
"Film of the year? You cannot be cirrus"

It seems redundant to congratulate Pixar on their perfectly-pitched characterisations, immaculate world-building and effortless storytelling, all backed up by exquisite animation; it's like applauding a chicken for being tasty. That's just what they do. Or at least it was, until the triple non-whammy of Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University suggested that particular chicken might be past its best. Those films still pulled in the greenbacks, but the years 2011-13 represent a low point in the studio's creative history. A two-year absence from cinema screens followed: a period which everyone at Pixar appears to have spent huddled in a corner reimagining, rewriting and refining their entire philosophy. I don't think it's an exaggeration to suggest that the result represents the most triumphant return since Christ popped his head round the door of his tomb one Easter and yelled "Heeeeeere's Jeezy!"

Inside Out is absolutely peak Pixar: its premise - that we're all controlled by our emotions, represented by cuddly characters knocking about in our noggins making us sad, happy, angry or scared - is beautifully streamlined but exceptionally executed. You've seen it before in comic strip The Numskulls (I may be showing my age here) or Red Dwarf episode Confidence & Paranoia, but this is next-level emotional anthropomorphism for Generation Pix. Writers Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley set up an ingenious but logical world inside the mind of 11-year-old Riley, where memory banks, personality islands and trains of thought are literal, visual representations of cognitive processes, the full workings of which few without a PhD in advanced psychology could hope to understand.

With those building blocks in place, Docter - also directing - takes us on an adventure of such ludicrous inventiveness that you spend as much time rejoicing in the unpredictability of what's to come as you do in the idiotically-grinning glee of what's happening at any given moment. It's reminiscent of this summer's other, somewhat less successful Disney joint Tomorrowland in its ability to conjure up one air-punchingly amazing set-piece after another, but with the invaluable bonus of not having had Damon Lindelof get his grubby mitts anywhere near it. I could happily have spent twice as long in Riley's chamber of abstract thought as I did, and would gladly pay through the nose for a three-day ticket to Imagination Land.

This party bag of visual delights would be nothing without Pixar's trademark emotional wallop to back it up though, and Inside Out packs enough of a punch to put you in intensive care at Feels General. Appropriately, given that Joy and Sadness are the two main protagonists, this firmly places you as the ball in a game of Pong between the two; I thought I'd escaped any embarrassing teargasms when I made it through the prologue dry-eyed, but for most of the last act I found myself reduced to an unsightly puddle, simultaneously cry-laughing at some of the most ridiculously touching stuff I've witnessed on film. Because Docter makes no bones about it: growing up is a terrifying, confusing process, during which you leave behind as much as you gain. Forgotten, precious memories are one thing, but the reshaping of a personality caused by the incessant change of youth is a mentally violent process, and Inside Out doesn't shy away from that - it just cushions the blow by explaining it using characters who are part elephant, part cat, part dolphin and part candy floss.

Bogglingly imaginative, obscenely funny in places and consistently heartfelt, Inside Out puts every other tentpole flick this year to shame with its unpredictability, its creativeness and its apparently effortless ability to yank at the heartstrings. Not just the best film of 2015 so far but arguably the best of Pixar's entire output, it's the kind of movie that almost makes you want to have children just so you can show it to them. Although why you would want to do that when it spends its whole running time reminding you that being a child is just about the most traumatic thing you can do is quite beyond me. I think I'd rather just watch Force Majeure again and have an early night.


  1. You should check out a nineties sitcom called Herman's Head, very similar premise and stars Lisa out of the Simpsons. Matt Dent.

  2. I couldn't agree more. Best film of the year and potentially the best thing Pixar has ever done. Although every time I say/write the latter, I think ooh but Wall-E, ooh and Up, ooh and Toy Story 3, ooh and The Incredibles and then I have to lie down.