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Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: Pixar finds form with the mind-bending Inside Out

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 July, 2015, 10:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 July, 2015, 12:32pm

Arriving on the back of muted applause for Pixar's last three films (Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University) and shortly before the opening of its troubled production of The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out has a lot to live up to.

It is thus with much joy — if not also a receding touch of sadness and fear — that we report the animation giant's first outing in two years to be a sensational return to form. Helmed by the ever-reliable Pete Docter (Up, Monsters, Inc.) with co-director Ronaldo Del Carmen, this spirited movie is a tour de force in bringing enchanting form to abstract ideas.

What makes Inside Out and other Pixar animated movies so special

Set significantly more "inside" than "out" of the brain of an 11-year-old girl, this surreal, if somewhat scientifically precise, picture of human consciousness turns a mundane family situation into a head trip that will entertain and enlighten children and adults.

After the happy-go-lucky Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) moves with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) from her cosy habitat in Minnesota to a lifeless new house in San Francisco, she's forced to leave her best friend, quit her hockey team, start at a new school, endlessly wait for the moving van to arrive and, appallingly, put up with the broccoli-topped pie at a local pizza parlour.

Inside her brain, five personified emotions — Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) — have been vying for control in front of what looks like a spaceship dashboard, with Joy being the long-acquiesced leader until the shock of Riley's recent move coasts through the pre-teen's system.

When Joy and Sadness are accidentally sent away into Riley's deeper consciousness, the girl becomes sullen as her outlook takes on shades of Anger, Fear and Disgust. As the pair strive to return to "Headquarters", the film tours us through such psychedelic mindscapes as "Imagination Land", "Abstract Thought", and the subconscious, where all the "troublemakers" go.

As much as it is a triumph of humorous designs (Riley's "Personality Islands" look like a cross between an alien planet and an amusement park; her "Dream Factory" is a filmmaking studio; and her "Train of Thought" is, well, a train), Inside Out ultimately resonates most with its audacious thesis, for a family movie especially, that sadness is an underrated emotion: it helps people cope with disappointments.

If Up was about making peace with whatever life throws at you, Docter has come up with an equally cathartic experience with this film as he points the ways to living harmoniously with one's inner self. Inside Out is both steeped in neuroscience and utterly warm-hearted.

Voiced by: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Bill Hader (English version) Directors: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen Category: I

Inside Out opens on July 23