What a good day it is when a new Pixar movie comes out. The Ministry and I have been salivating over this trailer since seeing it for the first time maybe six months ago so the anticipation level was high.
In case you have been living under a rock, this is a movie about a Riley, an 11-year-old girl who has always been happy and well-adjusted but is teetering on the edge of puberty when her parents uproot the family from its idyllic suburban neighbourhood and move to a grubby inner-city apartment because the dad’s job requires it.
At first they try to make the best of it, but the moving van fails to show up and cracks begin to appear in this previously close family unit.
The viewer not only sees the real action of what’s happening to Riley and her family, like they would in any animated movie, but also has a unique insight into Riley’s mind. The control room is operated various base emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Sadness and Disgust – who govern her responses to situations and all work in harmony to keep her safe, well and rounded-out, personality-wise. Around the control room is the rest of her inner world, including a land of imagination, long term memory storage vaults and a dream land. An all-important storage facility for core memories powers various islands that make Riley who she is – Family Island, Hockey Island, Honesty Island, Friendship Island and of course a Train of Thought running through it all.
The shock to the system of the move causes the whole system to tremble. Sadness starts acting out, touching stuff she shouldn’t. Internal infrastructure begins to collapse and Riley becomes sullen, withdrawn and depressed. Her parents are at a loss.
What they can’t see is that Joy, played, well, joyfully, by Amy Poehler, has left the control room to try to sort things out and get Riley back to normal. She’s Riley’s best hope to recover, but that means Riley’s left in the care of some highly unsuitable emotions.
Complex, right? And pretty heavy. But you’ll be glad to know they don’t get bogged down in explaining all this. It just happens. In the words of writing experts everywhere, they don’t tell – they show. The whole system is such an imaginative wonderland, so bright and gorgeous and humorous, that it’s not a chore to work all this out.
The messages about depression and personality and dealing with crises are meaningful, not preachy or forced. The movie is about a kid and any kid you took to see it would love it, but at the same time many of the jokes would go straight over kids’ heads. This is real insight, incredibly relatable, and it rings very true to me. As the Ministry said, it sweeps you up.
The voice casting was great, with a special stroke of genius putting Richard Kind (in lots of stuff, but I’ll always remember him as Mark from Mad About You) as Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong.
This is an incredibly funny, clever, innovative and profound movie. It breaks new ground.
We walked out exhilarated, our words falling over each other, telling each other what bits we loved – an all-too-rare cinema experience. Do it. Do it now!