OK, this one makes up for “Cars 2.”
Easily Disney Pixar’s best release since “Up,” “Inside Out” is a creative, hilarious and honest picture that doles out laughs, sparks some memories and tugs on heart strings.
Through solid storytelling and top-notch animation, Pixar presents a dazzling journey through a child’s mind — thankfully bereft of social media and Jonas Brothers — that appeals to audience members of all ages.
In fact, as with some of Pixar’s headier releases (e.g. “WALL*E’s Dinner with Nietzsche”*) this one almost has more for the grown-ups.
The story follows Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias, “The Shifting”), a young girl who moves with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco. Although life with her parents is swell, Riley’s having trouble adjusting — new school, no friends, no hockey. Understandably, she has a lot on her mind.
Fortunately, certain experts have her in mind — and just so happen to live in her mind. Guiding young Riley along the emotional roller coaster of life are her emotions personified — Joy (Amy Poehler, TV’s “Parks and Recreation”), Sadness (Phyllis Smith, TV’s “The Office”), Anger (Lewis Black, TV’s “The Dailey Show”), Fear (Bill Hader, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling, TV’s “The Mindy Project”).
The crew sees the world through Riley’s eyes and, in turn, determines how Riley sees the world. Playing hockey with her parents? Call in Joy. Upset at having to eat her broccoli? Let Anger take the wheel, with Disgust riding shotgun.
Essentially, each emotion dictates the nature of Riley’s memories, with the bulk of them happily associated with Joy. But in her new setting, Riley seems to be erring on the side of Sadness. When she remembers — and misses — her best friend in Minnesota, that otherwise fond memory turns melancholy.
As it so happens, Sadness, herself, is having an effect. By coming into contact with Riley’s joyful core memories, she’s changing Riley’s outlook on life. When Joy tries to interject, she ends up stranding herself and Sadness in Riley’s subconscious, leaving Fear, Anger and Disgust in charge.
To make it back to Headquarters (pun very much intended), Joy and Sadness must navigate Riley’s long-term memory, while encountering the curious denizens who live there, including an imaginary friend (Richard Kind, “A Serious Man”), the production team behind Riley’s dreams and even a duo of memory janitors (Paula Poundstone, NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me,” and Bobby Moynihan, TV’s “Saturday Night Live”).
But as Riley grows more emotionally detached, Joy and Sadness’s journey grows ever more difficult, and they’ll need to hurry if they’re to prevent Riley from making a rash decision.
“Inside Out” is definitely one of Pixar’s more out-there stories. Although similar in concept to Fox’s 1991 hit sitcom, “Herman’s Head,” in which a protagonist based his decisions on a group of personified emotions in his head, all played by different actors, the parallels pretty much stop there.
Per Pixar standards, the voice acting is superb, with sharp writing and snappy direction from Pixar veteran Pete Docter (“Toy Story”) and artist Ronaldo Del Carmen (“Ratatouille”).
Docter, Del Carmen and company have created an original, vivid and poignant world, visualizing the thoughts and feelings that make us collectively human. How we’re shaped by happiness, sorrow, pain and fear — and how we allow them to shape us — can be a lofty subject, but Pixar brings it down to Earth, and sweetly so.
Like its colorful, emotionally charged characters, “Inside Out,” pushes all the right buttons.
“Inside Out,” rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 17-B.
*Just kidding about that “WALL*E” sequel.