Friday, June 26, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW Inside Out (3D)
Sunny, Colorful Melancholy, PG-Style

From left to right: Angry, Fear, Joy, Disgust, Sadness, in Pete Docter's animated comedy-drama "Inside Out".

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, June 26, 2015
Few animated films lately have been as inventive and vibrant yet as gloomy and melancholic as the lively “Inside Out”, Pete Docter’s colorful film.  I was irritated by this multi-colored extravaganza.  Never completely settled by it.

Some strange, strange things were going on in this PG comedy-drama.  The PG rating is apt to have some of the most poisonous subliminal messaging percolating beneath any sunny surface in an animated lark.  In “Inside Out” two women — one a “rotund” bespectacled blue woman, is labeled “Sadness”.  The other, skinny, blue-eyed and golden-toned, is named “Joy”.  The stereotype evoked by their names -- or at least the “fancied” beauty model (and destructive) idea is reinforced: “fat” women are depressives, while skinny women are inherently happy.  It’s an overly simplistic and false mantra raised to a stunning crescendo when Joy actually drags Sadness around on the ground by her feet.  Strange.  Bizarre.  Weird.  I’d expect this kind of low-down, drag-out behavior on a BDSM website.  But Mr. Docter has it in his pretty little pretty ugly PG film.

“Inside Out”, by the way, is about the synapses in your mind - those electrons dotted all over the left and right side of your brain that govern your every reaction, emotion, thought and mood.  These neurons and impulses control you and act before you do. (None of the impulses on display is prejudice or hate, which would have been really interesting.)  Along with sadness and joy in “Inside Out” come anger, fear and disgust - and I often had the latter during “Inside Out”, which becomes robotic and repetitive just before the hour mark.

Each of these color-coded emotions bursts to life within the mind of a sullen child, Riley, who lives in San Francisco with her parents but is homesick for her native Minnesota.  Riley pouts, she’s ill-mannered -- perhaps in part because of the rapid onset of puberty.

For those reasons and others, Riley a a character isn’t especially befitting a film that is only tangentially about her.  Indeed, the only Riley worth a movie stage these days is Riley Curry, daughter of NBA MVP Steph Curry, whose Golden State Warriors basketball team rode off into the June Northern California sunlight as NBA champions.  The Riley of “Inside Out” is spoiled and neglected, a want-away being dangled for us by the writers and director like a carrot, though it felt more to me like stale rotten candy.

"Inside Out" for all its energy feels arrested, stunted and hollow.  The attempted sweetness of her parents feels hokey, so artificial that any sentiment is washed away by the overbearing malaise of Riley herself, who I couldn’t feel for.  How hard could it be to connect to Riley?  Well, there’s little in the way of a bond between Riley and her parents, save for the ice hockey she loves playing.  It’s her sole source of joy.  At times sadness appears to predominate Riley -- yet there isn’t much in the way of why.  Is Riley depressed?  A brat?  Or merely irritated by having to be drawn into this Pixar display or false awesomeness?  Are Riley’s parents ignoring her the way Joy constantly ignores, marginalizes and patronizes Sadness?

Somewhere in this 99-minute package is supposed to be a lesson about acknowledging and being in touch with the full gamut of your emotions and expressing rather than suppressing them.  Yet the message is delivered in such a cloying, insincere way so as to be aggressively manipulative and annoying.  Nightmarish even.  “Inside Out” suffocated me and made me want to bolt the theater for fresh air.  Simply put, "Inside Out" wore me out.  And I'm very energetic. 

"Inside Out" spends its energy tossing around its gaiety like confetti but its despair and spikiness torpedo the film's gush of glory and sharp animation, which the 3D glasses didn't really enhance.  Maybe Riley didn’t deserve any Life Of Riley joy.  Or something like that.  What-ever.  I simply didn't have the stomach or the empathy to care.  And that was long before "Inside Out" wallowed in self-congratulatory choruses in scenes bordering on mean-spiritedness.  The exasperating scenes late on pile it high, thick and deep.  Mr. Docter's film, which could have been very good had it sustained, enlivened and varied its initial staging of its ideas throughout, became a bore.

After a while absorbing “Inside Out” was like enduring a rough roller-coaster ride.  I couldn’t leave but I just wanted it to end.  And finally, thankfully -- it did.

With the voices of: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Kaitlyn Dias.

"Inside Out" is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association for mild thematic elements and some action.  Its running time is one hour and 39 minutes.

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