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Charming 'Inside Out' is a clever, animated look at the relationship between joy and sadness
Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), the main and most important of 11-year-old Rileys five Emotions, explores Long Term Memory in DisneyPixar's "Inside Out." Directed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up), "Inside Out" opens in theaters nationwide June 19, 2015. 2014 DisneyPixar. All Rights Reserved. - photo by Josh Terry
Pixar favorites like Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. have always been built on the strength of imagination. But the studio's newest offering, Inside Out, might be the first to do it literally.

Inside Out takes place almost entirely within the mind of an 11-year-old girl. Her individual emotions are the main characters, and as they navigate the inner workings of her mind, Inside Out teaches us a fascinating and entertaining lesson about the nature of joy and sadness.

Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is a happy, all-American kid who loves hockey and her parents, at least until her dads startup company takes them to San Francisco. Standing at the cusp of puberty and thrust into a foreign environment the cafe around the corner only serves broccoli pizza Riley finds her world has been plunged into chaos.

Inside her mind, a cast of colorful emotions scrambles to manage the vast control board that steers Rileys ship. Joy (Amy Poehler) has always been the default leader, but over time, shes had to make room for a host of less desirable roommates. Theres Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader) and, of course, Anger (Lewis Black).

Every time Riley creates a specific memory, her mind generates a globe that is color-coordinated to its dominant emotion yellow for joy, blue for sadness, etc. The major events in Rileys life create core memories, which in turn power her islands of personality, such as friendship and family.

Up until now, all of Rileys core memories have been associated with joy. But when she has an awful first day at her new school, Riley creates her first sad core memory, and chaos ensues.

Of course, in the world of Inside Out, chaos means that Joy and Sadness take an epic journey through the complex world of Rileys mind. They visit the different personality islands and the vast labyrinth of Rileys long-term memory and take an amusing detour through abstract thought, never far from a bottomless pit that represents her forgotten memories.

The idea was inspired by director Pete Docters own daughter, and he wisely builds the story around the polarity between joy and sadness. He also scored big in the casting department. Poehler is perfect as the enthusiastic, highly strung Joy, and Smith (who will be familiar to fans of TVs The Office) is vital as Sadness, the emotion with the most important character arc.

Its a pretty creative way of illustrating the dramatic life-or-death way things like moving feel when youre a kid (or an adult, really). Some of the complexity will probably be lost on younger viewers at one point the characters learn that when Sadness touches a happy memory, Riley begins to see it in a melancholy light but the story itself is entertaining enough to keep the kids attention.

Still, adults might be the best audience to fully appreciate Inside Out. Pixar movies have always maintained a delicate balance between their young primary audiences and the adults paying for the movie tickets. In this case, the scales might be tipped more to Mom and Dad than ever.

Its really the only weakness in an imaginative and insightful film.

Inside Out is preceded by Lava, an amusing animated short about a very unlikely love story.

Inside Out is rated PG for mild action and peril.
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