“I

The China Post - - ARTS -

nside Out,” the latest Pixar punch to the heart, nav­i­gates the labyrinth of a young girl’s mind in an an­tic, candy-col­ored romp through child­hood mem­ory to ar­rive, fi­nally, glo­ri­ously, at epiphany.

By now it’s a fa­mil­iar Pixar tra­jec­tory from wack­adoo­dle to water­works: We know it’s com­ing and we know there’s noth­ing we can do about it. The wave of ten­der nos­tal­gia is go­ing to crash down and wash us — happy, misty-eyed saps — out to sea, maybe with Nemo and Dora swimming along­side.

Those mo­ments, sen­ti­men­tal and sublime, come in un­likely places: the sud­den un­der­stand­ing of a for­got­ten toy, the as­ton­ished re­al­iza­tion of a bit­ter food critic, the flash­back of a grouchy old man. The epipha­nies are al­most in­vari­ably about giv­ing into the nat­u­ral course of life and time: An ac­cep­tance, a let­ting go.

Part of the magic is that even when out in space or in a rat-run res­tau­rant, Pixar films stay earth­bound. What’s most strik­ing about “In­side Out” isn’t its in­side-the­brain gee-whiz de­sign, but that it’s prob­a­bly Pixar’s most di­rectly hu­man story yet: An 11-year-old girl, grow­ing up.

It’s an event ob­served and sub­tly ma­nip­u­lated by a gag­gle of voices in the head of young Ri­ley: Joy (Amy Poehler), an ef­fer­ves­cent, pixie-haired burst of pos­i­tiv­ity; Sad­ness (Phyl­lis Smith), a bluetinged, be­spec­ta­cled mope; Anger (Lewis Black), a red block of fury; Fear (Bill Hader), a per­pet­u­ally ner­vous squig­gle; and Dis­gust (Mindy Kal­ing), a snob­bish so­cialite.

From in­side the “head­quar­ters” of her head, the quin­tet have all watched Ri­ley (Kait­lyn Dias) com­pile per­son­al­ity-form­ing mem­o­ries, each of which rolls into head­quar­ters like a glow­ing pin­ball, to be filed away ac­cord­ingly in places like long-term mem­o­ries or the more cen­tral “core mem­o­ries.”

Things be­gin go­ing hay­wire when Ri­ley and her par­ents (Diane Lane, Kyle Ma­cLach­lan) move from Min­nesota — the scene of her idyl­lic, hockey-play­ing youth — to a run­down San Fran­cisco town house. Sad­ness be­gins creep­ing into her core mem­o­ries, jeop­ar­diz­ing Joy’s pre­vi­ously un­chal­lenged sunny supremacy.

In try­ing to pre­vent this scourge of un­hap­pi­ness, Joy and Sad­ness get sucked into the re­cesses of Ri­ley’s mind where they must find a way back through a maze of realms like Imag­i­na­tion Land and Dream Pro­duc­tions, a nightly movie stu­dio of dreams.

The in­te­rior ar­chi­tec­ture is bright and clever — there’s lit­er­ally a train of thought — but the psy­chol­ogy puns drag. Much of the mind­scape ad­ven­tures will surely sail over the heads of many younger view­ers, while oth­ers will even­tu­ally tire of its “In­cep­tion”like trip into the brain. (An ex­cep­tion is Bing Bong, an aban­doned imag­i­nary friend played by Richard Kind, who cries candy and seems cre­ated to prove how Pixar can make lit­er­ally any­thing break your heart.)

Bet­ter is the ten­derly de­picted daily life of Ri­ley as she strug­gles to ad­just to a new school and city. “In­side Out,” di­rected by Pete Doc­ter and co-di­rected by Ron­nie Del Car­men, steadily builds in emo­tional power, aided mas­sively by Michael Gi­acchino’s beau­ti­fully soft and sweet score (he also scored “Up” and “Rata­touille”).

“In­side Out” may be about a young girl but it’s re­ally from a par­ent’s per­spec­tive — even the in­side voices are guardians of Ri­ley, ad­just­ing as she ma­tures out of child­hood. As he did with “Up,” Doc­ter has mar­ried a rain­bow­col­ored palate with a gen­tle fa­ble, mix­ing real and fan­tasy some­times awk­wardly but al­ways with warm­heart­ed­ness.

What’s most re­fresh­ing about “In­side Out” is its in­ver­sion of the stan­dard pre­scrip­tions of big­bud­get an­i­ma­tion: It’s ul­ti­mately about the im­por­tance of em­brac­ing sad­ness. This, you may have no­ticed, isn’t ex­actly the con­ven­tional moral one gen­er­ally finds at the mul­ti­plex.

But it’s a fit­ting les­son to be im­parted by Pixar, a master jug­gler of emo­tion that has so of­ten moved us with ra­di­ant bursts of feel­ing. Who bet­ter to re­mind us of the value of a good cry?

English with Chi­nese sub­ti­tles Hor­ror, Thriller 93 min.

2015

USA A fam­ily dis­cov­ers that their home is haunted by evil ghosts. Hor­ror strikes when the fam­ily’s youngest daugh­ter is taken by the spir­its. The fam­ily need to do their best to save their daugh­ter or else. Di­rected by Gil Ke­nan With Sam Rock­well, Rose­marie

DeWitt and Kennedi Cle­ments

“In­side Out” is prob­a­bly Pixar’s most di­rectly hu­man story yet: An 11-year-old girl, grow­ing up.

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