It seems that nearly every film that Pixar creates is greeted with excitement and praise and Inside Out is no different. Following a two year hiatus, the studio has emerged with another unique and emotional film that has once again been met with rave reviews. The central idea in Inside Out is that every person has a "team" of emotions in their mind who work to navigate them through life: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. Eleven year old Riley is a happy loving-life kid, primarily controlled by Joy (Amy Poehler) but when they move from Minnesota to San Francisco, Joy and Riley's other emotions struggle to cope with the change. Sadness (Phyllis Smith) begins to turn Riley's memories negative and her key life moments escape, with Joy and Sadness venturing to recover them. The main strength of Inside Out is the characters and the voice acting. Riley's emotions are all entertaining and very likeable and are what keep the whole film together. Poehler is a definite highlight, showing an impressive versatility and proving her talents in the animated scene. The writing is also generally of the standard that we have come to expect from Pixar and is still far above most other animated films. The humour is often sharp and quick-witted, riffing off each emotion's stereotypes in clever ways, a particular highlight being the dinner scene where we see Riley's parent's emotions.
The animation is as perfectly competent as ever but it often feels a little stale, with the design of the characters feeling a little uninspired, particularly with Joy where it seems they were trying to pull off a "hand-woven" aesthetic but fell slightly short and resorted to the classic Pixar look. The overall design was slick but felt less ambitious and there was sometimes little to occupy the screen, which, while it did draw attention to the characters, also detracted from the charm characteristic of many of Pixar's earlier films. My main problem with the film was that at times it felt thin plot wise. The journey to return to the "headquarters" of Riley's mind felt disjointed, as new gimmicks (cloud city, the train of thought etc) were introduced far too frequently and randomly. The "imaginary friend" character was also sadly uninteresting and a rare failure in the character department. Thankfully the film picked up again towards the end and the sentimentality of the final scenes almost equalled the opening of Up, with a satisfying resolution to the story and a relatable message. The originality of the concept also made the film interesting enough that it never began to bore.
Ultimately, Pixar have once again proved their worth as the kings of animation albeit slightly less impressively here. Though it may be unfair to hold this to the standards of Wall-E and Toy Story 2, Inside Out is still a standout animated film when compared with any other studio's work and just about merits a second watch.