Before you take part in “Minions” madness this weekend, you might want to consider turning “Inside Out.”
I love the yellow crew of funny and fury as much as anyone, and I’ll get around to see the animated story of the Minions before they found Gru. They make escaping to your happy place easy. But what I found with “Inside Out” was different. It reminded me that sometimes what we need isn’t a good time but a good cry.
Months ago, I saw the trailer for Pixar’s latest movie, told from the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley. Even then, I knew it would bring on the tears. It’s all about emotions, and each is a character inside her head. Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust sort out how she expresses herself and deals with her big move from Minnesota to San Francisco.
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So I put it off. I wasn’t ready to deal with all that emo. But like “Up,” “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story,” Pixar always makes you see the beauty in the struggle, the sweet side of sadness.
“Inside Out” might be the most poignant. Entering its fourth weekend, the movie has already brought in more than $260 million. Over Fourth of July, it bested “Jurassic World,” “Terminator Genisys” and “Magic Mike XXL” for the top spot. My theory: “Inside Out” is the it-movie because the message isn’t escapism. It doesn’t slap a smile on things. Instead, it encourages you to lean into your feelings.
This isn’t just Hollywood kiddie stuff. Pixar consulted with two psychologists while making this movie — Paul Ekman and Dacher Keltner — to ensure it got the message right.
“Happiness in a meaningful life is really about the full array of emotions, and finding them in the right place,” Keltner told Pacific Standard. “I think that is a subtext of the movie: The parents want Riley to just be their happy little girl. And she can’t. She has to have this full complement of emotions to develop. I think we all need to remember that.”
I admit I’m guilty of happy-washing in my personal life. People like Optimistic Me, so I often don’t share my blues. Sadness scares me, partly because my mom battles chronic depression. And at Riley’s age, I used to have such a hard time with Melancholy Me I remixed it into anger, because it was just easier to deal.
“Inside Out” tackles the hard feelings with grace and humor, reminding us all that we must deal with our downs so we can genuinely get up instead of faking it.
In the movie, Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) runs things in Riley’s head. She keeps it fun and light and cheerful. She lets Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Fear (Bill Hader) drive on occasion. But she rarely gives Sadness (Phyllis Smith) the wheel. And it’s that suppression of emotion that starts to eat away at Riley as she adjusts to life in a new city and a new school.
Joy and Sadness are the stars of this emotional roller coaster. It’s their inability to work together that tears things apart. The harder Joy tries to dismiss Sadness, the clearer it becomes that she needs her. When Joy looks at a happy memory, she starts to see that Sadness played a part in it as well, which helps cheer Riley up. As Riley shares her dark feelings, her family and friends lighten up her mood. As Joy and Sadness come together, they find their way and help Riley adjust to her new life.
That’s the thing about happiness. You can’t really find it until you deal with all of your baggage. Sometimes it’s sorting through the sadness with others that helps us find our way there.