The newest Disney-Pixar movie, “Inside Out,” skyrocketed to the top of the charts as the highest-grossing original property opening of all time.
Inside the mind of 11-year-old Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias), her emotions – Joy, Disgust, Anger, Fear, and Sadness – react to her family’s sudden move from their cozy Midwestern town to the hustling, bustling city of San Francisco. Featuring the voice of Amy Poehler as Joy, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, and Richard Kind as Riley’s long-forgotten imaginary friend, Bing Bong, and boasting a score by Michael Giacchino (“Cars 2,” “Ratatouille,” “The Incredibles,” “Up”), this is a star-studded film that will have kids glued to their seats.
However, despite the buzz, this film isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, it undertakes an amazing feat: to explore and explain what’s going on in an 11-year-old’s mind while still holding the attention of Disney-Pixar’s primarily young audience. And it does that almost perfectly. Almost.
While “Inside Out” is a brilliant imagining of a child’s subconscious, it is definitely lacking in the character development department. The personalities of the emotions (primarily Joy) are developed throughout the film, but the other (non-subconscious) characters in the movie seem dull by comparison. Sure, this film is about what goes on inside Riley’s head, but that’s just it – it’s about what goes on inside her head. Riley’s character was hardly touched on. We learn that she likes hockey and misses home, and that’s pretty much it. Who are her friends? Why does she love hockey so much? What about her old school, and her old house? These questions are left unanswered, and it makes it hard to follow Riley’s motives for the actions she takes.
“Inside Out” makes no sense, psychologically speaking. What about emotions like Curiosity, Jealousy, Ambition, Bravery, and Embarrassment? Or the left half of her brain – where was Riley’s logical mind in all of this? Not even in her “personality islands” was there a trace of logic or ordered thought. Her brain was controlled by spur-of-the-moment decisions based on emotion. I’m no psychologist, but I don’t think that’s how it works.
In the end, Riley tells her parents, “I know you don’t want me to, but I miss home. I wanna go home. Please don’t be mad.” That statement epitomizes a huge missed chance at character development. Riley obviously feels that her parents expect her to be completely untroubled by the move, but the narrative never explains why. Without character development, Riley’s confession is just a meaningless quote.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.