Written and Directed by: Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen.
Cast: Amy Poehler. Phyllis Smith. Bill Hader. Lewis Black. Richard Kind. Diane Lane. Kyle Maclachlan.
Running time: 94 minutes.
Pixar has gifted its delights to the entire spectrum of generations on regular occasion and last year in fact saw the first year for a long time with none of their creation hitting our screens and hearts, their absence was noted. This latest installment carried more expectation than an Englishman in the Wimbledon finals, armed with eight novelty-sized rackets, the fanfare from film festivals echoed into the box office as we spoke with our wallets and drowned Avatar‘s previous opening record in a flood of money. So was it worth the laurels it is so leisurely resting upon like an gluttonous ruler in the empire of film.
This story finds Riley a young girl from Minnesota being whisked away from home to San Francisco by her absurdly amiable and wonderfully imperfect parents for her dads new job. Then we meet the parallel cast, Riley’s personified emotions sassy Disgust, low and frustrating Sadness, volatile Anger, comedic Fear and our main hero the ever optimistic Joy. Joy plays out like Poehler’s famous civil servant in Parks and Recreation with an irresistible energy and passion which gives her a instantly believable and intimate connection with Riley, she quickly and beautifully explains how they influence but not entirely control Riley’s emotions and create memories that govern her personality. The setting and mechanics inside is a gloriously, fantastic creation brought about by the simplest of fleeting moments from her life in the dreary outside world, how it functions is fluid and amazing for its simplicity in its workings.
The story progresses as Sadness begins affecting memories compulsively and changing the emotion at actives to them in a way unseen before, Riley becomes apathetic and depressed struggling in each area of life. During a scuffle Joy and Sadness and several core mercies are ejected from the mind and end up stranded in the memory bank. They work their way back but while this happens the remaining emotions struggle to function without Joy and hatch and desperate and potentially devastating plan, Riley’s confidence and personality begins to crumble literally in some ways in a race against time. The characters have an abundance of just that, character and are memorable instead of just being marketable mascots or stereotypical and insensitive digs at real emotions in it’s audiences lives. These emotions are well rounded, flawed and deep just like the very feelings they represent and great vessels for the delicate point Pixar the writers are trying to make instead of the usual heavy handed heroes we are usually bombarded with.
The voice acting is simply brilliant with more emotion injected into lines until every word is fit to burst! The music is standard Pixar meaning it’s fitting and emotive and not a scene is wasted in regard to audio potential. The animation is fitting to the world, smooth and vast creations with every colour as vivid as the very imagination that crafted this undeniably magical real. The scenes are well thought through and lovingly built from in jokes and clever commentaries on our inner workings such as trying to catch the ‘Train Of Thought’ and the creation and of the frankly brilliant imaginary boyfriend that would make One Direction seem like a ruthless biker gang fighting the system of decency. Characters are well imagined in every sense and Incredibly well utilised and relatable such as the clown of every child’s dreamscape and the instantly classic imaginary friend Bing Bong. If you haven’t already heard of this fairy tale titan Bing Bong may be the most lovable sidekick since Baloo with a heart bigger than most continents and a theme tune designed to resonate in the minds of children and haunt the parents of many a decade to come. Stereotypes are played upon but never really offensive and the versions emotions shown in other people are sometimes a welcome change of pace and a fun credit roll a the end.
This has everything we have come to the want and expect from a Disney Pixar film and doesn’t say away in desperation of pleasing the masses, it’s bravery is what makes it the very kind of classic that most safer films strive for. Sadness is made purely unlikable with one of the best payoffs in character development ever while Joy is an incredibly passionate, loving and flawed hero like every good parent trying to protect their child. The heart wrenching moment is late on when the film is in full pace, it’s bold and beautiful in its delivery and design practically dragging a fountain of tears from the driest of eyes. The only dissapointments in this film would be that the result of this painful scene is never referenced again which flies in the face of its very point and also that a betrayal and mistake is never rectified. For a film with such a powerful morale message the fact that a simple apology never appears and a sacrifice not acknowledged is frustrating and a bitter aftertaste to this otherwise sugary sweet treat of an adventure. The humour is more hit than miss but relies heavily on a couple of winners particularly one gum jingle for us to chew over many times until the taste is almost gone, but the film doesn’t force its humour too much like a desperate comedian meeting the in laws for the first time…or me, right now.
The point of the film though is titanic in its relevance and poignancy for people of every age and attitude, it alienates no one and is as challenging as it is uplifting. The danger Riley ends up in is real, frighteningly common and makes a welcome amount of sense to the story established instead of going wacky the more relatable danger keeps you hooked and invested. The payoff is satisfying, heart warming and tough in its realistic tenderness. It’s doesn’t tell you that everything will be ok, instead that it’s alright to not always be ok. Instead of the feverish feel good propaganda usually shoved into our faces like a colourful, hollow cake of forced glee, here we are told that every feeling is important whether positive or not. That families aren’t perfect but simply learning from each other and this is often enough to keep going. That’s every memory is precious in its own way and defines us in ways we don’t even understand. An easily overlooked point on supportive parenting and even mistakenly not putting pressure on children lends to a climactic family moment that plays on your heartstrings like a power metal guitar solo. This commentary on being comfortable to not judge yourself and others on how you feel is a precious and often avoided message delivered with an unrelenting affection that Joy herself would be proud of.
The Verdict: A roller coaster of emotions that is as comfortable with the downs as it is with the ups as it knows that they both add to the momentum of the journey. This film gives a careful sculpted message lovingly wrapped in a colourful and elegant gift of a film.