Inside Out Review Roundup: Pixar Film Is ''Captivating Fun for Kids'' But Their Parents Will Be ''Blubbering Wrecks''

Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith and Lewis Black voice emotions in Disney's movie

By Zach Johnson Jun 18, 2015 2:15 PMTags

It's not easy being a tween.

In Disney•Pixar's Inside Out, five emotions are based in headquarters, the control center inside 11-year-old Riley Anderson's mind. Joy (Amy Poehler) finds the fun, Fear (Bill Hader) heads up safety, Anger (Lewis Black) ensures all is fair and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) prevents Riley from getting poisoned, physically or socially. Sadness (Phyllis Smith) isn't too sure what her role is—and frankly, no one does.

For most of her young life, Joy has been Riley's guiding emotion. But after her parents (voiced by Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) move the family from Minnesota to San Francisco, Sadness overcomes her.

Director Pete Docter co-wrote the screenplay with Josh Cooley and Meg LeFauve. Michael Giacchino, who also scored The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up and Cars 2 for Disney•Pixar, composed the film's music.

Inside Out is in theaters Friday. The 94-minute movie is rated PG.

Here's what critics think of Disney•Pixar's latest movie:

• "Pixar's 15th feature is another landmark, an unmissable film triumph that raises the bar on what animation can do and proves that live action doesn't have dibs on cinematic art. Oh, did I say it was funny? It is, uproariously so, when you're not brushing away a tear," Rolling Stone's Peter Travers writes.

Walt Disney Pictures

• "Much of Inside Out is a carnivalesque odyssey: Having been sucked up a chute and propelled to the far end of Riley's mindscape, the fundamentally at-odds Joy and Sadness must find their way back to headquarters before everything really goes to hell. The road is anything but straight. The obstacles are riotous. Docter and his Pixar team have packed the film with gags—visual, verbal, broad, glancing—and I can't think of one that doesn't have psychological, philosophical, cultural or just fascinating architectural underpinnings," New York's David Edelstein writes. "The most surprising encounter is with a friendly, dopey clown called Bing Bong (Richard Kind), who was once Riley's imaginary friend," he adds. "Happy as he is, Bing Bong carries a trace of the melancholy of Toy Story's toys. He was once a major part of Riley's inner world and loves her still. But he has no place in the mind of an evolving 11-year-old."

Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty calls the movie "transcendent and touching." As he explains, "They've made a movie that's so smart and psychologically clever, it may leave little ones scratching their heads wondering why their parents are laughing so hard and getting so choked up. It's the first film I know of that's been marketed to kids, but is in actuality made for grown-ups." That said, he notes that "there's enough slapstick and silliness to keep kids entertained," but the film "also has a bittersweet streak about the loss of innocence and the fleetingness of childhood. In the end, the message of Inside Out seems to be that sadness, as painful as it is, is not only unavoidable but essential to joy...and to Joy."

• Calling it the studio's best film since 2009's Up, The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips says it gets "lost" in the middle. But, he writes, "There's a truly lovely resolution, completely trackable even for preteens, resting on the notion of mixed emotions, and the value of acknowledging life's hardships, rather than papering them over with false good cheer. This is why Inside Out works. We feel for the girl at its center, and when things go right after going wrong, the swell of emotion is neither cheap nor bombastic."

• "This adventurous outing manages the great Pixar trick of operating on two levels—captivating fun for kids, disarming smarts for adults—that sets the studio apart," The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy writes. "This journey through the psychic and emotional underworld could have been a lot more harrowing, hellish and Bosch-like than it is, it will still probably appear perilous enough to real kids younger than Riley, who have never suffered through a crisis before," the critic adds. "What the film charts, then, in its highly original and disarmingly physicalized way, is the competition among the oppositional aspects of human nature. In this respect, Joy is the protagonist and heroine, but the script doesn't pretend that any of the other emotions couldn't take over and lead one to the wrong destination."

• "Inside Out manages to be honest and unafraid but never cheaply sentimental where emotion is concerned, evoking a largeness of spirit whose ability to be moving sneaks up and takes us by surprise," The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan writes, noting that it doesn't just focus on Riley's actions, as it "combines imaginative conceptualization with inventive animation to tell a parallel story." In essence, it explores the human experience. "Though it doesn't seem that way at first, the five emotions are not rivals jousting for power and control; they are united by wanting the best for Riley. And when Joy begins to understand the value and purpose of Sadness, that leads to moments no one is going to forget."

The Wrap's Alonso Duralde thinks Inside Out will be "the kind of movie that may forever change the way children—and even adults—discuss their feelings." However, he feels the "'go to the place and get the thing' plotting feels at odds with the sweet central metaphor about finding balance and allowing yourself to feel your feelings...A stronger structure underpinning these emotions run amok would have benefitted the film, but then what would feelings be without a little messiness? For many viewers, giving their own Joy and Sadness a workout will be enough to make Inside Out a valuable experience."

• "On paper, Inside Out sounded like another lunatic gamble: an adventure that takes place entirely within the head of an 11-year-old girl, featuring her Emotions as characters—although if anyone could pull off a logline like that, it would be the team that made us care about rats who cook, toys that bond, and robots who fall in love," Variety's Peter Debruge says, praising the "stunningly original concept that will not only delight and entertain the company's massive worldwide audience, but also promises to forever change the way people think about the way people think, delivering creative fireworks grounded by a wonderfully relatable family story."

L.A. Weekly's Amy Nicholson writes that while Docter and co-director Ronnie Del Carmen's "overbright cartoon can't disguise that this is heady stuff," it appeals to both children and adults. "For all the distractions and gags, Inside Out argues a more complex idea: that sometimes Sadness deserves to steer, and that as we age, our happy memories deepen when tinted a wistful blue. That truth melts parents into blubbering wrecks but won't click with children until their 15th rewatch. No rush. They'll be busy decoding Inside Out's simpler messages: The emotions in your head may conflict. But what matters isn't only your inner world—it's your outer response. Because everyone else has feelings, too."