Movie Review: Inside Out


Director Peter Hans Docter seems to excel in portraying children in his films, with young characters like Russell (Up, 2009) and Boo (Monsters Inc, 2001) remaining household names to this day. The release of his latest film, Inside Out, might signify the birth of another “child” icon, together with a number of other characters residing in said child’s thoughts.

Somewhere in Minnesota, a girl named Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) is born. 5 manifestations of her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) – work to balance her emotions as Riley grows up.


As the film’s title suggests, “Out” refers to Riley’s reality and what’s tangible around her. “Inside” represents her inner thoughts controlled by the five emotional forces in the “headquarters” through “core” memories and “personality islands”.

The film opens with Joy, the self-proclaimed leader of the emotions, narrating each of the main characters in detail.

Joy is always creating a multitude of happy memories for Riley, shaping her as the “happy little monkey” to her parents and peers. However, things take a drastic turn when 11-year-old Riley relocates to San Francisco with her family.


Riley’s emotional state took its toll when Sadness accidentally interferes with her core memories. Joy attempts to rectify Sadness’ blunder, but accidentally gets sucked out of headquarters through the memory tube together with Sadness, leading to the rest of Riley’s mind. While they both struggle to return to headquarters, Anger, Fear and Disgust try to keep Riley’s emotional state as positive as they can while she adjusts to life in San Francisco, but of course, inadvertently worsens it.

Many aspects on the brain’s functions (i.e. abstract thoughts, dreams, imagination) were, complicated as they are, carefully researched, simplified, and aptly implemented in the storyline. And like what we’ve come to expect of Disney’s Pixar movies, the narrative is immaculate. Kudos to the writers, for ensuring the movie’s pace is as smooth as John Lasseter’s Jungle Cruising skills.


Daily phrases that we often use come to life as well. For instance, Joy, Sadness and Bing Bong (Riley’s imaginary friend) attempt to travel back to headquarters via… the train of thoughts. In another scene, emotions literally “freeze” when Riley had a “brain freeze”.

Pixar’s art direction typically boasts of color and liveliness. However, there is a stark contrast in its set design here. Riley’s personality islands, core memories and the deeper thoughts are colorful and lively, caricatures of Broadway musicals from the 1950s. This gradually becomes darker as the audience moves on to her subconscious thoughts and lost memories.


The city of San Francisco is also depicted to be darker and more drab than usual, particularly Riley’s new neighborhood where litter and dust are seemingly everywhere. It aligns with Riley’s situation and pessimistic feelings as the adolescent struggles to adapt in a new city.

Inside Out is set to captivate and move audiences, whilst remaining chuckle-worthy with recurring jokes and brainy antics. Whether you are an adolescent or a fully-grown adult, you’re bound to relate with Riley and how she deals with all the emotional troubles in her life.


If the people at Pixar decide to film a full-fledged movie sequel in the years to come, they may want to introduce more emotions to control the headquarters – Daze, Surprise, Confusion maybe?

After all, as hormone-raging, tumblr-emo, and impressionable teenagers ourselves, we’re fully aware we don’t just experience 5 emotions in our crazy teenage lives.

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What emotions would you like to see portrayed in Inside Out’s sequel? Tell us in the comments below!



Release Date: 27 August 2015

Runtime: 94 minutes

Language: English

Rating: PG

Genre: Comedy Adventure

Director: Peter Hans Docter

Main Actors: Kaitlyn Dias, Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling