Every time a Pixar Animation feature comes out, I know the entire world is about to go crazy over something that will only fill me with dread and disgust. It happened again the other night. I saw an advance screening of "Inside Out." People all around me cooed with pleasure. I sat there punching my knee.
To my eye, "Inside Out" is the single most hideously ugly animated movie ever made. It’s so garish you feel like you've been swallowed by a jelly bean and are watching the world through a candy coated stomach. The character designs could have been cooked up by a Montessori preschool: giant eyes, monochromatic color, and extreme poses that never deviate from the promotional posters.
We are locked inside a young girl's head as she deals with the emotional trauma of a family move and adolescent pressures about her role in a new social setting. The emotions themselves are the characters we're tracking. Joy. Sadness. Anger. Fear. Disgust. They left out Grumpy and Doc.
Like "Up" before it, "Inside Out" will be praised by a lot of people for its emotional honesty, which is code for "it made me cry." But to me it’s designed to tamp down human behaviors and desires into shapes so flat the movie should have come wrapped in a fortune cookie.
Did you know that Happiness and Sadness are both part of life? Or that parents are sometimes preoccupied by things other than their kids?
And because this is Pixar, we are asked — no, make that forced — to weep for childhood as some sort of thumb-sucking "Paradise Lost." The nostalgia for a simpler time of diapers and fluffy pillows is fetishistic.
"But it's so original!" you say. It’s not. Disney nearly won an Oscar in 1943 for the propaganda short called "Reason and Emotion," which takes place in the cockpit of a human skull, where competing impulses wrestle for control of the steering wheel.
But "Reason and Emotion" sought to personify the intellect as well as the id. "Inside Out" is all id, all the time. People are just bundles of emotion lurching from one experience to the next based on which of their buttons is being pushed. And if that doesn't sound like a modern studio's idea of its audience, nothing does.