Inside Out is being hailed as a return to form for Pixar, following a series of sequels. I have to say, I really enjoyed it, but I do wonder if it’s a film that is aimed at adults more than children in some respects. As you probably know, the film takes place inside the head of 11-year-old Riley and its leading characters are the five emotions that control her: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. So far, so Numskulls. However, what makes this film really stand out is that it’s not simply about the interactions between the different emotions and the way they battle for control of Riley, it has a lot more to say about how our minds and emotions work in terms of other aspects, such as memories, personality formation, nostalgia and forgetting.
The way the film expresses the complexity of emotions and memory is great: for example, memories that had previously been joyful get touched by sadness when Riley’s life changes course and change colour as she realises things will never be the same as they once were; aspects of her personality that were important as a little girl crumble away as she enters adolescence; old memories fade and fall into the ‘memory hole’. The colours used throughout are really pretty, bringing the slightly surreal world to life. It doesn’t have perhaps the depth of animation of, say, Monsters Inc, but it does have a depth of feeling. There is nothing quite so overwhelmingly sad about its meditations on growing older and the loss of childhood as, say, Andy leaving his toys behind in Toy Story 3, but it’s in its little moments where it shows us how emotions and memories come together at varying points of our lives that it touches. I think the film will certainly work for older children, but it might go over the heads of younger children, and they may even feel a little bored in places. It actually would probably resonate quite well with a lot of teenagers, and speak to their experience of adolescence, but I expect they would be the least likely group to go and see a “kids’ film”.
It’s not entirely clear why they’ve chosen the five emotions they have, nor why the emotions in Riley’s head are mixed gender, but those in each of her parents’ heads are single gender. Perhaps this doesn’t matter, it was just a bit unusual – as if at some point kids lose the capacity to have a ‘male’ and ‘female’ side to their personalities (although I guess maybe it’s a treat for the non-binary community and Riley is someone who doesn’t identify just as female). The relationship between Riley and her parents is pretty well realised, especially towards the end. The way it explores how something seemingly quite simple -in this case moving house – can actually have incredibly profound effects is, I think, quite important. This is the kind of story we see in children’s and young adult fiction, but it’s less common in cinema, where the type of events that traumatise children tend to be the more extreme ones, such as death. Riley’s situation of moving house and schools will feel incredibly familiar to a lot of young people, as will the feelings that she experiences, and it’s nice to see the experience being treated seriously.
Is it a perfect film? No, of course not. Some might find it a little lacking in action and others a bit too philosophical (I didn’t mind either of those aspects, but YMMV). The way Joy and Sadness navigate Riley’s in the world and get out of their predicament doesn’t entirely work for me as it’s just a bit too weird, but I can forgive that because the movie is so charming and heart-felt. I really want to watch it again, as I suspect its one of those that has more to give on repeat viewings.
Magic Mike XXL is a strange one. The first film was an unlikely hit, its mixture of serious drama and crowdpleasing strip scenes proving popular with audiences, especially female audiences (I wonder why!). It propelled Channing Tatum from an up-and-coming star to a big box office draw and so a sequel, whilst entirely unnecessary, is perhaps no surprise.
However, this film doesn’t really know what it’s doing. What made the first film work was that a) its plot was one in which our central character underwent a journey and that b) it interspersed a variety of stripping club scenes throughout. This one is less successful in both aspects.
The setup is that Mike and his stripper friends are getting back together for one last shot at a competition. On the way there, it’s a bit of a road trip movie and a buddy comedy, yet there are hints at something a little darker (as in the first film) that never really go anywhere and there are some slightly pointless deviations into Mike’s love life. On the trip, the men are inspired to change up their routines for the competition.
However, their routines only really come into play at the end of the film (aside from a small scene in a drag club) and are quite underwhelming when compared to those of the first film-they certainly don’t live up to the XXL in the title. Then, it kind of just ends. It’s not really clear what the guys have learned, even whether they’ve won the competition or not, or what is next for them. Like their routine, it is all suggestion and no meat.
I’ve never been in a cinema where so many people talked all the way through a film as this one. Clearly, the audience weren’t there for all the endless posturing on the road trip and the bits they had been waiting for took a hell of a long time to come. This probably could have been forgiven if the buildup to the competition (the road trip and all the associated scenes) had some points, but it was all a bit nothingy. Yes, there were some fun scenes along the way, but in terms of a storyline, not much at all.
It’s not that this is a film without any merit whatsoever. The characters are quite interesting-both male and female characters-and for a film with so many central male characters, there are some meaty female roles. The friendships are touching (though they get the fat guy out of the way a bit too quickly – a shame as women of all sizes are represented). Some of the scenes are really funny, others quite sexy. But overall, it’s quite underwhelming and underpowered, a franchise that no longer really has its magic. (Yes, I went there!)