It’s a top 10 Pixar in my mind, which is sufficient shorthand for “masterpiece or damn close.” What really slays me is the physical depiction of losing the memories of childhood and growing up. My wife and I literally had tears running down our cheeks half the runtime as we watched with our 2 and 4 year olds. It’s a tremendously creative and evocative film.
That said, I’m going to use this review space to make some quibbles about an obviously great film:
For one, it does the Pete Docter thing of relying too much on big suspenseful chases that don’t properly match the emotional texture of the film, e.g. the climactic chase in Up. So much of Joy and Sadness’s scramble to make it back to HQ feels almost arbitrary. Like what purpose does the “abstract thought” segment serve other than to be a neat idea with some cool visuals. The movie, overall, is excessively kinetic in a way that doesn’t amplify the emotions of the film. (Compare Docter to Brad Bird, who gets his films’ feelings and motion in perfect sync).
Second, I think a lot of the worldbuilding in this movie is iffy, and it detracts from my experience watching the film. Just a little bit. I’m not sure I can articulate it, but I will try:
The 5 “emotions” seem overly simplified. It really bugged me how we see inside other people’s heads, and the emotions operated in basically the same manner, when human minds are much more varied than that. The architecture of my emotional processing might be totally, qualitatively different from yours, not just a remix.
And the haphazard way that entire structures of the brain crumble and reform on a moment’s notice, with entire shelves of memories tumbling into the abyss for the sake of the narrative, felt… cheap.
Lastly, something about the idea of emotions having their own agency just rubs me weird. It’s like Joy herself has her own set of driving emotions and motivations while simultaneously being an avatar for the very concept of happiness.
It all adds up to something that’s slightly off during the in-brain portions of the film, though I have little criticism of the “real world” segments.
But did I mention that this film is amazing, and nearly a masterpiece? Next time I watch, I’ll point out some of the high points.
Exceptionally Good (7/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.