I’ve always been kind of a Pixar fan. They do good films over there, and basically everyone knows it.
Up, when it came out, hit me like a truck. I still can’t watch it again. It’s a movie about loss, and it’s simply one of the most depressing things I’ve ever watched. That’s not the reason for this post; that’s there to set a benchmark. I say that to say this:
I have never had a movie kick the living shit out of me like Inside Out.
There. I said it. Now let me back up.
I read Howard Taylor’s review of it and (even though he put it below his Threshold) had to admit I was intrigued. Personified emotions? It seemed to me like you could really use that as a tool for explaining psychological development. It could be a really neat way to interact with people who have a hard time dealing with their impulses and their emotional control. I figured it would be a solid Pixar movie, and I was intrigued. Then game night cancelled, World of Warcraft’s servers were overloaded, and I was bored. So I headed down to the local theater to check it out.
In the words of Illidan, I was not prepared.
Inside Out is seriously one of the most profound works of art in our time. Movies these days seem to be nothing more than remakes and rehashes. As Happy Harry Hardon once told us, “All the great themes have been used up, turned into theme parks.” So let me be clear: I don’t know how this movie got greenlit. I can only imagine the conversation looks like this:
Pixar: “Hey, Disney. Us Pixar Boys are thinking about making a movie.”
Disney: “Great! We tend to make a lot of money when you do that. What are you thinking about?”
Pixar: “Well, we’re thinking of personifying emotions. You know, get inside someone’s head and show their emotions running around, controlling them.”
Disney: “Sounds cool. Could be really cute, I guess. Happy kids movie?”
Pixar: “Uh…yeah. Happy. That’s one of the five.”
Pixar: “Well, you know…most emotions are important. So there’s actually five. Wouldn’t want to skew this.”
Disney: “But…it’s a children’s film. So, shouldn’t it be happy?”
Pixar: “We were thinking of making it about growing up, and how your childhood is destroyed and replaced by less happy things as you age.”
Disney: “Why in the hell would this make a good kids movie?”
Pixar: “Well, it’d be a really extraordinary learning experience. Parents and kids could talk about a wide range of emotions. We could substantially enhance the ability of parents to understand what their children are feeling and doing by giving children a framework around which to understand it. We could also remind all the parents how completely destroyed their once-happy childhood was, and that’ll effect them on a deep emotional level as well.”
Disney: “So, you want to traumatize an entire generation?”
Pixar: “As a learning experience, yeah.”
Disney: “And you think that’ll be profitable.”
Pixar: “We’ll throw in a cat/monkey/elephant/dolphin hybrid made out of cotton candy who powers rockets by singing and cries caramels.”
Disney: “Why didn’t you lead with that? Sold!”
This movie made me mourn those parts of my childhood long left behind. It managed to dredge up every happy memory I’ve had of the past, then drive home the fact that those times are gone. It then proceeded to destroy any hope or dreams I may have harbored about the ability to live in that kind of pure happiness again. Not that I ever really thought that was possible, but still…you couldn’t have let me hope for it?
In short, the movie laid me raw. I sat in the theater as the credits rolled, trying to figure out what in the hell had just happened to me. In every other movie I’ve cried at, and there have been a couple, I’ve been crying out of empathy for the characters. I’ve been moved by their stories, their toils, their triumphs. Inside Out didn’t do that. The profound, and the unique, trick of this movie was that it managed to dredge up my own personal stories and make me cry about those all over again. I have never–never–had a work of art from any medium come at me like that. I’m still figuring out how they did it.
If you are a parent then you need to take your children to see Inside Out. Brace yourself to take the hit, but build a bunch of time into the schedule afterwards to break the movie down with them, see what they thought. The fact that you will then be able to, at any point in time, ask your children which emotion is at the console, will blow your mind. With that simple question, you now have a tool to make the child become introspective about what they’re actually doing and why.
If you are not a parent then you need to go see Inside Out. Don’t brace yourself; you don’t need this movie as the tool for parents that it is. Just take the hit. Take it. TAKE IT. The catharsis on the other side is kind of amazing.
Hat’s off to my new favorite Pixar movie. I have a feeling I’m going to be watching this one over and over again to figure out exactly how they did what they did. But for now, get thee to a theater and give Pixar your cash. They earned it with this one.