Sound familiar? Readers of a certain age may recall The Numskulls, the little human technicians who lived inside the head of a man in a comic-book strip for The Beano. It continues to this day.
But this is Pixar — the world’s greatest animation studio — and the creative force takes a similar idea and develops it into something very special indeed. For Inside Out is up there with the US studio’s very best work — visually groundbreaking and inventive, funny, surprising and deeply moving.
Kids will be engaged throughout, while parents may find themselves running through a series of emotions in their own heads.
Following a period where Pixar’s films were successful, but just not as special as we’d be spoiled into expecting, Inside Out, their 15th feature, represents a spectacular return to form.
It also packs a serious emotional punch — unsurprising when you realise that Pete Doctor, who jerked our tears in Monsters, Inc and Up, is at the helm here once more.
Sparkling with imagination, it takes us inside the head of Riley, an 11-year-old girl who is guided by her emotions: the perky and upbeat Joy (Poehler), the conservative and easily spooked Fear (Hader), the jaded and thoughtful Sadness (Smith), red hothead Anger (Lewis Black) and the delightfully eye-rolling Disgust (inset, Mindy Kaling).
Riley’s pretty even- tempered and Joy rules the roost — but she’s going through a rocky period in her life. Struggling with those awkward adolescent years has not been helped by her parents’ decision to move from the rural Midwest to San Francisco.
In a film packed with brilliantly realised ideas, there are two standout scenes. A family argument over the dinner table — where we are introduced to the emotions in Riley’s par-ents’ heads — could well be the five funniest minutes you’ll experience at a cinema this year.
And the finale, where we are gently reminded of the importance of being in touch with all of our emotions, is simply up there with Pixar’s most classic moments.
I’ll reveal no more — this is a film that truly surprises and takes some daring turns, and deserves to be loved and enjoyed on those terms.
The Stars: Featuring the voices of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Kaitlyn Dias.
The Story: The emotions inside Riley’s head help her control her mind — until she has to adjust to a new life.
THE VERDICT: By turns hilarious and deeply moving, Inside Out ranks among Pixar’s finest films (5/5)