RETURN OF PIXAR

INSIDE OUT REPRESENTS A SUCCESSFUL RETURN TO WHAT MADE PIXAR GREAT-AND IT BROKE THE BOX OFFICE ON ITS WAY BACK

Director: Pete Docter

Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind and Kaitlyn Dias

Studio: Pixar/Disney

Rated: G

Running Time: I Hr, 34 Min.

There has been some genuine concern at the House of the Mouse this movie season. While Avengers: Age of Ultron has been a huge financial success, it hasn’t matched the box office performance of 2012’s original Avengers (who watched its record for the highest grossing weekend of all time stolen last week by Universal’s monster hit Jurassic World-pun totally intended). In fact, Universal has outshone Disney and it’s various affiliates all year long, ruling the box office first with Furious 7 before Jurassic World conquered theatres. Toss in the hundred million dollar bath Disney expects to take on the tanking Tomorrowland and 2015 hasn’t been the spreadsheet dream year Disney shareholders were expecting. Until, that is, Pixar rode to the rescue like an animated cavalry with its most recent blockbuster, Inside Out.

12 year-old Riley’s family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, leaving her friends, her hockey team and the only home she’s ever known. Dealing with a new school and a new neighborhood would be tough enough, but the family’s furniture and possessions end up in Texas and her father’s barely around as he tries to prevent the new company he’s working for (and the entire reason they moved) from going under before it even gets off the ground. Riley tries to keep a happy face and act as the family’s morale, but eventually the stress of the move and the burden of leaving everything she’s ever known eventually begins to get to her.

That’s because Riley’s emotions, lead by the ever-bubbly Joy (Amy Poehler) begin running amok in her head. The emotions who control everything from her emotional Command Centre are struggling with the upheaval in Riley’s life as well, and Riley’s Sadness (Phyllis Smith) becomes a more prominent emotional presence. And before they know it, Joy and Sadness are yanked out of Riley’s Command Centre and find themselves desperately trying to return before her remaining emotions-Anger, Fear and Disgust-make a complete mess of everything.

As per Pixar usual, the voice casting is beyond inspired. Poehler is perfect as the hyper energetic, uber-bubbly Joy while Smith (most well known for her role as Phyllis from TV’s The Office) is an equally brilliant choice to bring the pessimistic, beyond melancholy yet eventually empathic Sadness to slouchy life. Bill Hader as Fear and Mindy Kaling (another Office vet) as Disgust are equally perfect. Richard Kind as Riley’s one-time imaginary friend Bing Bong moves between slightly irritating to genuinely touching effortlessly. But caustic political comedian Lewis Black steals the show as Anger. If Oscars were handed for voice actors in animated movies, Black would be getting some serious votes next February. And while Pixar more then hits it out of the park with the voice casting, they manage to find a way to raise their industry leading standards for animation even higher. Inside Out’s art and design team invested serious effort into imagining Riley’s emotional landscape, from her personality islands to the labyrinth that houses her growing inventory of memories to the various productions studios responsible for her dreams. It’s clear from the first shot that Pixar’s artists were given creative carte blanch when building this animated world and they ran with it.

Inside Out’s story ranges from cute to adorable to subtly tragic, with plenty of jokes and rapid fire quips peppered along the way for good measure. While Inside Out has no shortage of magic to appeal to kids, both young and old, its story doesn’t skimp on the gravity, much the same way Up and Wall-E embraced more mature themet. You’ll go from laughing out loud to having a heartstring or two tugged and be back to laughing again all in the same scene. Inside Out sees Pixar returning to what made the company great; swinging fearlessly for the creative fences.

Inside Out’s 91 million opening weekend was well beyond everyone’s most liberal estimates, and while this is the first time a Pixar release hasn’t occupied the number one spot in its first weekend (Jurassic World maintained its hold on the top spot at the box office for the second straight week), it is the second highest opening in Pixar’s history and is the highest debut for an original property (something that isn’t a sequel, prequel, remake or adaptation) in Hollywood history, usurping Avatar’s 2009 opening haul of 77 million. In short, Pixar is back and it should be interesting to see how Inside Out’s box office fares against that of another highly anticipated animation juggernaut, Minions (yet another Universal release). It will also be interesting to see how this sets up The Good Dinosaur, Pixar’s November release (this is also the first time Pixar is releasing two titles in the same calendar year, making up for last year’s Pixar absence). Either way, Mickey has reason to walk with a little more swagger this week.

Shayne Kempton

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