“…it has delivered us from pathos, from sorrow, the deepest chasms of melancholy and hate. With it, we anesthetize grief, annihilate jealousy, obliterate rage. Those sister impulses towards joy, love, and elation are anesthetized in stride, we accept as fair sacrifice.”

-Father (Equilibrium)

Pixar hasn’t produced a smash hit original idea since 2009’s Up. They have enjoyed some success with sequels, but critics and fans have wondered if the most popular CGI animation studio had hit its last home run. Last year marked the first time since 2000 that Pixar hadn’t released a film, and then after shutting down its Canadian offices, many within the industry were becoming worried that Pixar was on shaky ground. Inside Out seems to have silenced all those worries. Critics, fans, and industry insiders have all had nothing but love for Pixar’s latest release.

The story begins with the birth of Riley, and we are slowly introduced to her five emotions. Joy (Amy Poehler) is the overbearing parental emotion that wants Riley to always feel happy. Sadness (Phyllis Smith) is the ever present buzzkill. Fear (Bill Hader) is the extremely overprotective father figure. Anger (Lewis Black) is the vengeful over-confident part of Riley’s brain. Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is a combination of a few different emotions but ultimately fuels Riley’s desire to fit in. Each actor does a marvelous job of standing out and are each uniquely cast to fit their respective emotion.

Inside Out does a marvelous job of showing how the emotions work together to create a balanced well-adapted 12-year-old girl. But for the first time in Riley’s life, a big change has come. Her father has accepted a job at a startup in San Francisco. The family is uprooted from its perfectly midwestern home in Minnesota to a different world in California. Riley’s emotions begin to scramble. Joy’s overwhelming desire to see Riley be happy causes her and Sadness to get lost in Riley’s mind. This leaves only Disgust, Fear, and Anger to run Riley’s brain. Inside Out is essentially a road trip film. Joy and Sadness must navigate their way back to the control center before Riley becomes completely numb and loses her ability to feel.

Pete Docter has written and directed some of Pixar’s best films. Up and Monsters Inc. are some of the most touching animated films ever made. Inside Out is no different. Docter has a unique way of connecting adult themes to children’s movies. Even though the very nature of the film is elementary and serves as a way to teach children how to cope with emotions, Inside Out also provides a sense of nostalgia of our own childhood. Docter does a great job of showing the importance of experiencing all emotions. Joy is perpetually trying to keep Sadness from controlling Riley, but as adults we realize that grief is cathartic.

Inside Out is a beautiful, fun, and heartwarming film. The casting is perfect, and so is the story. Pete Docter has produced a product that is sure to be played ad nauseum in the homes of many families. But this is a wondrous movie that deserves to be seen multiple times. This is a film that can be used as a tool to help pre-pubescent kids learn to deal with their emotions and at the same time can keep adults entertained. That is truly a unique experience. Pixar has found its groove once again with Inside Out.

Grade: A