Inside Out

Posted on June 18, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Profanity: Some schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril and anxiety, sad death
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: June 19, 2015
Date Released to DVD: November 3, 2015 ASIN: B00YCY46VO
Copyright 2015  Pixar
Copyright 2015 Pixar

Roger Ebert liked to refer to movies as an “empathy machine.” He said that the great gift of movies, more than any other art form, is the way they can put us inside the world, experiences, culture, and perspective of someone completely outside our own experience. But the best movies do that in a way that helps us understand ourselves as well. “Inside Out” is a rare film that takes us inside the mind of one very particular 11-year-old girl in a way that illuminates the vast breadth of human experience, with deep insights about our own particular quirks, struggles, and emotions. It is exciting, hilarious (two of the funniest jokes you will see on screen this year), and deeply profound, making the most complex concepts accessible in so that children and adults will learn more about who they are and how they got that way.

Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is in the midst of internal and external turmoil. She was very happy in Minnesota, playing on a hockey team, with lots of friends, and feeling, well, at home. But her parents have just moved to San Francisco, so that her father can take a new job with a start-up. Everything is new and different and scary. Everything she liked about her life, everything she took for granted, is up for grabs. And all of this is happening just as that developmental leap that comes around age 11 is causing her to change from the bright-spirited, optimistic, happy little girl who was confident in herself and in her family.  She is getting old enough to see and feel more of what is going on inside and out. Her parents try to be reassuring, but she knows that her father’s new job is risky. She does not know anyone at school and they do not know her. The old friends from the place she still thinks of as home do not have as much time for someone who is far away.

Of course we have seen this before. There are a lot of movies about people of all ages who are forced to adjust to changed circumstances, or to find a way to make a strange new place feel like home. What is different about “Inside Out” is that Riley is not the character we follow through this story. She has her own adventure, but the story takes place in her mind and it is her emotions who take center stage. They operate the helm of the — yes — Headquarters.

The characters are Joy (Amy Poehler), a pixie-ish blue-haired sprite who is resolutely energetic and upbeat, Anger (Lewis Black), a stocky red fellow who is fiery-tempered and easily outraged, Disgust (Mindy Kaling), green, with a round head, long eyelashes, and a sensitive spirit quick to resist anything new or icky, Fear (Bill Hader), a lean blue creature who usually assumes the worst, and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), who feels everything very, very, very, very deeply. Each of these characters is introduced with what they help Riley do. Anger helps her see unfairness. Disgust helps her to avoid poisonous foods. Fear helps keep her safe. Joy helps her see the world as a place filled with imagination, adventure, and opportunity. And Sadness — we will learn more about what Sadness does later, but for now we will say that it helps her feel empathy. Joy is the leader of the group. She is the most focused and direct and the best able to negotiate with the others. But her goal is to keep all of Riley’s memories happy, and that might not be possible.

As Riley tries to use her mind, her memories, and her emotions to navigate her new community, Joy and Sadness are accidentally transported to where Riley’s memories are stored, and they must make it through an Oz or Wonderland-style land where we learn about everything from abstract thinking to why you CAN’T GET THAT DARN JINGLE FROM THAT STUPID COMMERCIAL OUT OF YOUR HEAD.  A surprising — in every sense of the term — new character shows up to provide support and insight, and to embody the sweet sorrow of growing up.  Co-writer/director Pete Docter told Terry Gross that it was when Mindy Kaling came to talk to him about the film that he understood what it was really about: you have to grow up, and it’s okay to be sad about it.  That applies whether you are the one growing up or just watching it as a parent or friend.  This movie speaks to all of us, whether we have children, are children, were children, or still keep the child we were near our hearts.  A lot of good movies are smart.  But this one is wise.

Parents should know that this movie includes some mild peril, family tension, running away, and a sad death.

Family discussion: Can you think of a time that Joy was steering your mind? How about the other emotions?  When can you feel them working together?  Did you have a Bing Bong? Why did he make that choice?

If you like this, try: “Everybody Rides the Carousel,” “Up,” and “Monsters Inc.”

Related Tags:


3D Animation Comedy Coming of age Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week For the Whole Family

6 Replies to “Inside Out”

Comments are closed.

THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik