As a mother of young children, I sometimes feel like I'm drowning in tiny tears.
“She took the one I wanted!” Jealous tears.
“I dropped an empty box of crayons on my big toe and it HURT!” Wounded tears.
“There are THREE greens and NO reds in my fruit snacks!” Angry tears.
Maybe that's why when I observe other people doing something as silly as crying at a movie, I scoff and roll my eyes. Puh-lease. I'm surrounded by overemotional tiny humans 8 days a week. Sniveling into a giant, buttery tub of popcorn seems as outrageous as crying over spilled milk; there's simply no room in my head for that kind of nonsense.
Then, I saw “Inside Out.”
Disney Pixar's masterfully innovative spin on the classic “coming of age” story introduces us to Riley, an 11-year-old Minnesota girl, whose family leaves the Midwest for a new life in San Francisco. They're a lovable family—decidedly normal, mostly happy, and filled with love. But the real stars of the film are the emotions brought to life as beautifully animated characters in the colorful world of Riley's “headquarters,” literally inside her head.
Each persona is exactly as its name suggests: Joy, the endlessly happy ringleader (she was there first, after all, at the joyous moment of first breath); Sadness, the sighing, always blue (in every sense) pessimist; Fear, the nervously paranoid, high strung 'fraidy cat; Disgust, the exasperated and sassy cynic; and Anger, the gruff, short-fused hothead. This motley crew oversees everything from Riley's moods to preserving her most treasured memories, working together to make each day as good as it can be for their beloved girl.
A series of snafus accidentally takes Joy and Sadness away from headquarters, and the movie centers around their efforts to return. Along the way, we meet Riley's old imaginary friend named Bing Bong, who delivers Pixar's most brilliantly simple yet tear-jerking line in an emotional scene, and we get a fantastically pleasing-to-the-eye glimpse into the mind of a child.
On the surface, it sounds like a cute little idea, something kids would find funny and engaging. They do, but it's the adults in the audience who are, I suspect, the real target of the film's incredibly deep, sentimental theme: growing up is hard to do.
What's exceptional about “Inside Out” isn't the animation, or even the likable cast of characters; it's the way it makes you feel all the feels. You'll laugh (in fact, I've never heard an entire theatre erupt in such full belly laughs like it did for this movie), then just as quickly, you'll get misty. And long after the credits roll, you'll find yourself analyzing what kinds of memories define you, helped shape you into the person you are today. Pretty grown-up stuff for a kids flick.
As the mother of young children, I sometimes feel like I'm walking a fragile tightrope. Joy and sadness, fear and anger, disgust—they're all there, in my own daily life and in the eyes of those tiny humans I so dearly love. We're constantly learning to find the balance, to navigate the good along with the bad, to meld it all together into our own beautifully colorful story.
Maybe that's why this one got me so completely—and why I'm not ashamed to admit it.
Now, somebody pass the popcorn (and the tissues).