By D.K. Holm
For The Courier 

New Review: Inside Out

Now Playing at Valley Cinemas


Courtesy of Pixar/Disney

Here's why I don't like to review animated movies.

After years of dutifully attending all the animated films from Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, Fox, the recent upstart Laika, and the animés from Japan, and after seeing the Shreks, the Toy Stories, the polar comedies, and whatnot, I realized that most animated works told one of exactly two basic stories. In the first story, someone decides to take a journey. It's either a widower going on a vacation (Up), or a zoo animal character who decides to see the world, and being unequipped to deal with the outside, must be followed and rescued by his zoo-mates. The second story usually concerns some kind of succession crisis. A princess, a lion prince, or some other creature or kid must forge their skills or strength in order to merit becoming the anointed one. This second premise is usually the one that explores "girl power," especially in the new Disney films.

But my claim is probably unfair. You'd be surprised at how many animated films are released internationally every year. In 1999 there were 52, including Toy Story 2, Fantasia 2000, and The Iron Giant, plus an animated telling of Anne Frank's diary. In 2011 there were 94. Last year there were 99. The contributions by the Hollywood studios, however, are a small percentage of these films. They just have higher profiles. Most of the animated movies in a given year are from Asia, Europe, and elsewhere. Not all of these films can tell the exact same story every time. Just the ones we see here, because the studios' corporate strategists have determined through box office and market research that this double set of tales is all American children want to see. To really assess the globe's animation you'd have to be a full time animation reviewer, seeing a minimum of two new films a week. That's a bit much, especially if one is impatient and bored with cartoons.

That being said, the new Inside Out from Pixar has an unusual premise. The film takes place in the mind of Riley, an 11-year-old girl, and the "characters" are her color-coded battling emotions. These included joy (Amy Poehler), fear (Bill Hader), anger (Lewis Black), and disgust (Mindy Kaling). In short, the cast is power-packed with overrated, mediocre television people. The plot kicks in when Riley's parents (Diane Lane and the wooden Kyle MacLachlan) move her from Minnesota to San Francisco, and she has to cope with new surroundings. As per the animated film template, joy and sadness get accidentally locked out of Riley's mindscape, leaving the unstable others in charge, and the duo have to get back in, and save Riley from the consequences of running away.

One could argue that most movies these days are animated. A quick tour of recent titles released by Hollywood reminds us that San Andreas, The Avengers, Tomorrowland, and the Hobbit movies among many others are essentially cartoons, generated in computer hard drives. Now the biggest cartoon action film of the year is here.


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