In Up, director Pete Docter made mass audiences weep minutes after the film began. All it took was one genius montage of a young couple growing into autumn years — simple, but play that film’s theme music out loud (I dare you), and house faucets drip of their own accord. It was a great trick, and probably needed, since the movie itself had such an unlikely premise: An octogenarian flies his balloon-buoyed tract home to South America. The results are in: Up is a movie that even cartoon haters love.
In Inside Out, Docter pulls off the same trick again — and you will mist up — with even better timing and an even goofier premise. We watch the inner workings of a young girl’s brainpan, but instead of neurons bubbling, we see glowing creatures with not-so-subtle names like Joy, Sadness, Fear, and Anger cavort, making Riley run (and weep and giggle). Much of this movie concerns those interior workings, as Riley’s emotions gather around a console to determine her life like Remy in Ratatouille pulling Linguini’s hair. But the tears come from a prequel: a bittersweet vignette from the outside world, a bucolic Wisconsin childhood transplanted to San Francisco, and the brave way a good daughter tries and fails at being strong. For the rest of the film, even with its slight falters, Docter has you.
Make no mistake, the inner journey is a blast, especially the map of consciousness provided: A train of thought takes viewers from long-term memories, through the Unconscious, and down to a scary pit where memories go to die. It’s a more thoughtful Phantom Tollbooth. Technically innovative, even if it relies too much on the plot and themes of Toy Story 3, Inside Out is testament to something more than just how emotions run lives. Docter transmits these emotions to us. We believe a silly premise and feel the war between regrets and happy days raging in a world of animated change.