Insight Out: A Review of Pixar’s “Inside Out”

Pixar, Inside Out Characters Closeup ©Disney

Pixar, Inside Out Characters, Closeup © Disney

Inside Out (2015)
Studio: Pixar
Cast: Kaitlyn Dias, Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling
Director: Pete Docter
Reviewed by Jess Napp

J.M. Barrie once said, “Growing up is such a barbarous business, full of inconvenience… and pimples.” In Pixar’s latest cinematic creation, Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is a typical 10-year-old living in a small Midwestern town. She loves her family, friends, hockey and goofing around. Though the viewer gets an occasional glance at Riley’s physical surroundings, they are mostly given an intimate look at her preteen mind: a mind largely dictated by its inner emotions, most notably the fun-loving and peachy keen emotion of Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler). Yet, when Riley turns 11, her world falls apart. She is uprooted from the familiar and forced to start over in San Francisco. The other core emotions – Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith), Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader), and Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling) – turn to Joy to help cheer Riley up, but Joy soon realizes that not everything can be fixed with pizza and the suppression of Sadness.

Inside Out has received rave reviews and critics are praising the film for how well director Pete Docter captures childhood emotions. Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who worked as a consultant to the filmmakers said, “It zeroes in on one of the most poignant times in an individual’s life, which is the transition to the preteen and early teen years, where kids — and, I think, in particular girls — start to really powerfully feel the loss of childhood.”

As  a soon to be 20-year-old woman, I completely agree with Keltner. The minute I came home from college this past summer and began the process of decompressing in front of the TV, it seemed like every other commercial was for Inside Out. I had to see it because I possess a strange dichotomy of tastes that range from Quentin Tarantino flicks to, as my mother would say, “baby movies.” My deep affinity for the Minions (animated characters) led me to believe that this would be the next best movie since Despicable Me. Little did I know that this story would mean so much more to me than the comic relief I would get from those tiny yellow pill-shaped Minions.

When opening weekend finally arrived, thousands of children flocked to see these personified emotions. In the midst of this swarm of children sat three much older girls as they reminisced about their sophomore year of college. I had come to realize that with age comes the glorious feeling of being comfortable in your own skin, but in that particular theater at that particular moment, I felt like a giraffe in the tundra, completely out of place.

Here sat three not so little kids, because let’s face it we still felt like kids, enjoying a movie so much that our tears of sadness and joy made us briefly question our own maturity levels. We are really entering the next chapter in our lives, just like Riley.

This  summer I have been attempting to overcome that eternal hurdle of youth, passing the elusive driver’s road test. Even though I am a little older than the average teen hoping to pass, this is still a huge milestone in my life. It is getting me one step closer toward learning how to be a functioning member of the “real world.” There are a lot of emotions centered around this new challenge in my life. I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m nervous. Yet, mostly I’m just hoping to not hit the curb when I parallel park!

For years driving was one of those things that only grown-ups did, like schedule a colonoscopy or put together Ikea furniture. Then, when it was suddenly my turn to go through this rite of passage–well, I just didn’t know what to do. A lot of my close friends received their licenses immediately but thanks to an extremely generous friend I always had a ride to school. I played it off like I was simply too young to drive and truthfully, at 16 I wasn’t ready to hit the open road. Everything about being in the driver’s seat felt strange.

The truth is, I was afraid.

I wasn’t merely afraid of hitting something or failing the test. I was terrified of getting one step closer toward leaving more of my youth behind. Driving did not symbolize the epitome of teenage freedom; instead it led to the realization that it was time for me to learn how to become an adult. I felt like a baby bird being nudged out of the nest. Even now, the thought of driving without a guiding force in the passenger seat really freaks me out.

Recently, I sat in a parking lot with my Dad and somehow mustered up the courage to ask if I could take a loop around by myself. I was expecting him to protest, but without a moment’s hesitation, he hoped out of the car and said, ‘Of course.’ I pulled away from him and panic instantly bubbled up inside my throat like the sensation just before vomiting. I had to keep going because at that point I was already halfway around the lot; so at a snail’s pace, I made my way back to him. The entire time my right foot shook as I pushed the gas.

It  reminded me of Inside Out’s Riley when she first moved to California and found herself in a classroom surrounded by unknown faces. She was asked to tell the class a little bit about herself. Riley shakily stood up and began the ritualistic process of introduction.  When she gathered steam and continued beyond the point of basic information, however, she progressed into a bittersweet nostalgic longing for her former life in Minnesota. The realization that she was no longer there made her cry. I am no longer in the protective bubble wrap of childhood and sometimes that terrifies me. I know that growing up doesn’t automatically mean that you’re thrown into the big bad world, but sometimes it sure feels that way.

As the movie progresses Riley comes to the realization that sometimes the road to being is not freshly paved; even if free of cracks and bumps, sometimes it will take you down an unfamiliar path. Acknowledging your feelings and validating each of your emotions, however, can help make the road to being a little less jarring. Oscar Wilde once said, “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” At its core this movie is a bildungsroman. It is a tale of emotional maturity.

The protective bubble wrap of my youth may be falling off my shoulders like a worn out cape. I accept that I am afraid. Yes, I am terrified, but I also know that I am going to be okay, just like Riley.♦

Jess Napp is currently a summer intern for Parabola and a junior at SUNY New Paltz.