The 400-Word Review: Inside Out

By Sean Collier

June 22, 2015

Women never go for the angry guys.

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Inside Out ranks among the best of Pixar’s films. I’m not sure I could decide whether or not it’s the best, because Pixar’s near-constant innovation makes nearly every one of their films seem like a new high water mark; I’m confident, though, that when perspective sinks in, this unconventional-yet-familiar fable will be thought of alongside WALL-E, Up and The Incredibles.

Directed by Pixar mainstays Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen, Inside Out takes place in and around the psyche of Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), who is 11-years-old for most of the film. Without, her parents have just moved her from Minneapolis, where she was an avid hockey player, to San Francisco; a relentless optimist, she tries to be positive about the new circumstances, but feels sadness becoming dominant. Literally. Within, we follow her personified emotions as they attempt to maintain order and vie for control of Riley’s outlook.

The emotions — Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) — are the focal point, and the bulk of Inside Out’s action occurs in the mission-control world of memory and personality they run. The conflict, inevitably, is between Joy and Sadness; Joy has long been dominant in steering the happy-go-lucky Riley, but with new circumstances, Sadness finds herself meddling with old memories and current events alike.


Among the reasons to admire Inside Out is the simple and elegant language it gives to these internal forces; the child that grows up with Inside Out may be better equipped to understand and talk about their own emotional life than the child who does not. Pixar’s film is far from the first to attempt this task, but it may prove to be among the most effective; aside from its considerable value as a film, this is a work that has the potential to improve lives. Not too many of those come out in a given year.

Aside from that, though, Inside Out is generally excellent. By turns uproariously funny and surprisingly moving (and buoyed by a pitch-perfect cast), it enters the realm of must-see cinema not simply for families, but for movie lovers of any age. Moviegoer beware, though: there’s surprising power in this metaphor, and moments of Inside Out will rival Up as the most heartbreaking in the Pixar library. On a journey this lovely, though, some sadness is a small price to pay.

My Rating: 9/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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