Inside Out



            On the surface, Pixar's incredibly charming story of a girl adjusting to a move from Minnesota to San Franscico sounds, well, pretty ordinary.  People move all the time, because of job relocation.  And kids, though uprooted, eventually make the adjustments to their new reality.  And Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is no exception.

            There's also nothing particularly new about the use of animation, especially for movies aimed at a children's audience.  However skilled the animation is, the conundrum is always the same:  how much to try to appeal to the adults who are watching, also, because they brought the kids?

            It's difficult to convey, in an essay, how wonderfully creative this film is.  It's engaging entertainment at a very high level, and family-friendly, as well.

            The premise is that Riley is ruled by her inner emotions:  joy, disgust, fear, sadness, and anger.  Joy (Amy Poehler) is the most dominant trait, but she must constantly manage the other emotions, all of which took their turn in taking over the control console when Riley was a baby, but now, everybody has conceded Headquarters operations to Joy.  Each experience is stored in a memory, which is short -term until Riley  falls asleep, then is moved to long-term storage (and eventually removed in a kind of “spring cleaning”).  The most signficant people in Riley's life, her Mom (Diane Lane) and Dad (Kyle MacLachlan) also have their own inner emotions, but really, this is about what's going on inside Riley.

            She's anchored, emotionally, by various “islands” around her subconscious, including family, her main hobby (hockey), and even a certain “goofy” mode, where she gives herself permission to just act silly (like making monkey noises with her parents).

            Sadness (Phyllis Smith) is almost always a downer, and sometimes an impulsive troublemaker.  Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is also the sarcastic humor.  Anger (Lewis Black) is rarely useful, however, it has to just come out sometimes, as does a random memory of a stupid commerical jingle about chewing gum.

            Are there parts too sad for the little kids?  Well, it was traumatic when Bing Bong, the childhood imaginary friend, finally fades away into oblivion, but then, Riley's turning into a teenager now, which also means there's a much bigger console of emotional range.

            The script is lively, the action is energetic, and there's just so much great insight into human nature, of any age, that the viewers are are treated to a rare enjoyable event of laughing at themselves.

            How much would I receommend it?  Well, let's see, the first time I took only one grandkid, for his birthday.  Maybe the next time I can take another grandkid, for her birthday.  It's rare that I would want to watch any movie more than once.  But this one I would undoubtedly enjoy all over again.


Questions for Discussion:

1)                  If you were to list your primary emotions, what would the categories be?

2)                  Do you feel that there is one overriding emotion within you that governs the rest?

3)                  What kind of life-events cause your emotions to go haywire?

4)                  Which stupid commercial jingles can you not get out of your head?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas