Inside Out deserves—and is getting—unending praise from critics and fans, so my exuberant hurrahs will only add to the fervor of the roaring crowd. That’s fine and that’s what I intend to do, but I will also add that films like this continuing to come into the world fill me with so much vigor and hope; not just because of the overwhelmingly uplifting message of the story, but because of the memories it sparks in me of how good animation can and has changed the world.
When I was a young animation enthusiast, family and friends grew weary of my (in their eyes) excessively optimistic expectations for upcoming Disney films. “They can’t all be as good as Beauty in the Beast,” I heard as I quaked with excitement waiting for Aladdin’s premiere. “Don’t get your hopes up.” “Well, this Lion King looks a little weird—I mean, a whole movie about a lion cub? Just don’t get your hopes up too high.” And then, the feeling of triumph as you leave the theater having had your childish fantasies fulfilled—how many times have I been proven right about how great an upcoming Disney/Pixar release is?
But, I don’t think every animated film is going to be the best. I am usually excited to see any animated film, but I have grown to be skeptical about which are going to be really great. Inside Out piqued my interest from the first whisper of its concept (and director). Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is one of my favorite films, so maybe I am just a sucker for this sort of psyche-centric films, but I sensed it was more than that. I was so right.
It’s not just the crazy complicated, painstakingly thought-out world of Riley’s mind that’s so impressive, it’s the selflessness of the emotions and the cooperation of their team—they all care about nothing but Riley—they are Riley. It clicks, it makes sense, it’s so bizarre while being so understandable. This film addresses the problem of pain, a strong argument of those who claim God doesn’t exist, namely that if God is all good, why does he let bad things happen to good people? Without any preaching or pandering, Inside Out illustrates how integrally Joy and Sadness go together. Nay, Joy needs Sadness.
There’s SO.MUCH.MORE. I could say about this film and I imagine many more articles will spring to mind as I watch for a third, fourth, fifth and sixteenth time (I saw Finding Nemo 13 times in theater and I am proud of that! Did you see Finding Nemo? It’s flipping amazing.) Suffice it to this: the film offers so much novelty of spirit, story and setting that you are going to be blown away and soon you will want to join me on the streets, picketing for this film to win Best Picture—not just Animated, but seriously BEST.
Hey Jessica! Excellent write-up, I appreciate your take on the film for sure! Just as a follow up (and I don’t want to shift this to a religious discussion since that’s not the point of the article), but where does god come into the film? I didn’t pick up on any undertones about that at all? Sure, Pete’s a religious guy, but he has said that he doesn’t want to overtly put anything in the film since he’s not the kind of guy that likes to be preachy?
Thanks for reading and commenting! You’re right that God is not overtly mentioned in the film, and that’s usually the most effective way to convey spiritual concepts (as opposed to preachy, on-the-nose stuff as you mentioned.) I only brought religion up because “the problem of evil” is one of the most compelling emotional arguments against God’s existence and I feel that INSIDE OUT addressed this as beautifully, philosophically, and effectively as I’ve ever seen.
Thanks for the reply. I guess what made me want to comment is that you said, “This film addresses the problem of pain, a strong argument of those who claim God doesn’t exist…” and I just wanted to point out that the film doesn’t “address” this – this is your personal interpretation of the film (which makes sense, since it’s your review though). I just didn’t want others reading this to potentially get a polarized view of the film since religion is not even on the radar of the movie, or its purpose. Please do not take this disrespectfully, but it’s not the intent of the film to prove (or disprove) that area in the least. It’s simply about emotions and the challenges that come up during our teen (and pre-teen) years as we struggle with looking forward while leaving childhood behind.
I’m sorry if my review and thoughts on the potential deeper meanings of this film have come off esoteric or disingenuous at all. For one note of clarification, I did not mean that a more elevated message in a film “you may miss” to be you personally, but rather I believe great artists make work so full of depth, that we may all miss some of their more meaningful messages. I think I could read “The Tempest” or “The Lord of the Rings,” for example, 1,000 times each and still find more and more in them. This is the nature of profound art. Of course, you are right that the film is about growing up, a beautiful coming of age story that tries to illustrate what the emotional state of a pre-teen’s brain could look like personified. However, I also saw universal truths about–not only objective morality and the resolution of the problem of pain–but also the invaluability of the family (another ideal we shouldn’t take for granted as obvious today,) the beauty in pure selflessness, the importance of honesty to our very personality, and so much more. I am sorry you took my review as biased and untrue–I stand by my thoughts, but I certainly never meant to make you uncomfortable by them. Glad you liked the film!
I see what you mean, but i still think the film overtly addresses the “problem of pain,” though in no way saying “God.” I am speaking of the philosophical position that evil and pain disprove an all-powerful, all-good source of objective morality. Of course, this film is not a theological work in any way, but good writing can touch higher truths without you even realizing it. Sadness is, even by her own admission, to be avoided and something to keep Riley from at all costs–but, the truth is that Joy and Sadness are both necessary components of the human person. Goodness comes from both, though we wouldn’t think that of sadness ordinarily.
Couldn’t it just simply be about emotions without the underlying message?
When you said, “but good writing can touch higher truths without you even realizing it”. I apologize, but that comes across as passively insulting. So, what you’re saying is that I didn’t get it…That I missed the underlying message in this movie and that it may somehow be over my head (but that you “get” it)? Nope. I’m going out on a limb here that you’re projecting your personal beliefs onto the film rather than letting the film speak for itself. The message conveyed is the one laying right there out on the table – it’s about growing up, dealing with emotions and the physiological changes that we go through (especially in teen and pre-teen years)…the ones that happen in all of us (in varied forms as we grow up).
If it had an underlying message, I’m not so sure it would have jumped into the boy’s mind at the end of the film and had his emotions running around in terror with the loud speakers shouting “girl, girl, girl”. I think that message was right there on the table too – it was a gag.
I have spoken my mind and will read any further comment(s) that you post, but I’m going to politely step out of this conversation moving forward as I don’t believe I can add any additional insights which I haven’t already touched on. Thank you.
Thank you for this review! I am so glad someone is pointing out that Inside Out clearly addresses the problem of pain! Not only is the problem of pain important because it is an argument against the existence of God, but it is important because it is something that EVERYONE struggles with at one time or another, making this film utterly universal. You are spot on in your review.
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