Year 8, Day 124 - 5/3/16 - Movie #2,324
BEFORE: Maybe I'm the last person to get around to seeing this film - it did win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, after all. But I don't have kids, so there's my built-in excuse. I got around to it, eventually, these things all end up on premium cable - and my response time is getting shorter, because they only started running this one a few weeks ago. I got "Sisters" on PPV to go with it, so I wouldn't have to circle back to Amy Poehler again. Amy Poehler AND Bobby Moynihan carry over from "Sisters".
THE PLOT: After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness - conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.
AFTER: And because I don't have any kids, I have no idea what goes on in the mind of a 12-year old girl. Makes sense, I had no idea when I was 12 myself, so why would I know now? I've had some success relating to adult women, but girls are still a mystery - I probably can't talk to them in a way that won't get me in trouble with their parents or the law.
But kudos to someone who wanted to explore this, to make some visual and character representation of what might take place in that mysterious minefield, and they boiled it down to five emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust (apparently Lust, Detachment, Guilt, Regret and Bitchiness come along later). I mean, I get it, those are five different emotions, and it enables them to tell the story, but it's a bit overly simplistic, right? And the downside for my nephew was the collaterally-induced fear that there were five small people living in his brain, causing him to have different reactions to things.
OK, so maybe kids need to be a little older to appreciate this, and not be freaked out by it. As long as they understand that everything is a metaphor, and not meant to be taken literally, there's a lot of good stuff here. Depicting an individual memory as a shiny globe that rolls down a pipe is a very clear, instantly recognizable symbol, and then associating with a color for each emotion. They become sort of like icons for files on a hard-drive, or songs on a playlist, and then they fill up racks and racks in long-term storage, like books on a shelf. Brilliant. And then when a memory fades, so does its color and shininess, and eventually the dull, colorless memories are destined to be thrown off a cliff, into the Memory Dump.
Just like last night's film, problems are set in motion when a parents' house gets sold, in "Sisters" it caused a lot of memories and emotions and a killer party, and here the same situation causes a lot of emotions and upheaval in a young girl's life. It's a common enough situation, where a kid has to move to a new city and a new school - jeez, that's tough for adults, I can't even imagine what it's like for a kid.
Further problems are caused when Joy and Sadness get sucked out of "Headquarters" and accidentally end up in long-term memory, which is even further away from the core than Riley's five "Islands" that represent the main aspects of her personality, like Family and Hockey. It initially seems like they can return fairly easily to Headquarters from these islands, but as aspects of the girl's personality become threatened in the real world, those routes become impossible, and the longer Joy and Sadness are away from Headquarters, the longer it will be until Riley is capable of feeling those emotions - so she can only react to things with combinations of Fear, Anger and Disgust.
There is some science to this all, and I'm assuming that what we know today about the way the human mind works is more accurate than, say, Freud's interpretations. I liked the fact that by the end of the film, Riley was experiencing complicated emotions - because that's a fairly adult notion, that a memory can make you feel more than one thing. When you're a little kid, you're more likely to have simple, one-note reactions to things.
And a couple short peeks into the parents' heads confirms this, by the time they're adults, their emotions have learned better ways of working together, and they both have larger control panels, ones where all of the emotions can sit together, in the Mom head the scene sort of resembles an all-female talk show like "The View", and in the Dad head, his five emotions are watching sports together. Sure, these are stereotypes, but what's a mild stereotype but a quick, easy way of conveying a complex plot point? As adults these people have been through a lot of tough situations, they've learned to weather emotional storms, either by logical reasoning or by tuning things out.
But this film is calling out for a sequel - as Riley becomes a teen, naturally one would expect more complicated reactions to things, plus there's the opportunity for her to experience first love, heartbreak, being treated as a young adult instead of a kid, the story possibilities are there, and even hinted at in the final scenes of this film. And hey, if it takes 5 years to make a sequel, that's OK, because then any 10-year olds who enjoyed this film would be 15, and then you just age the main character similarly.
(And if they do that, I would suggest throwing Freud into the mix and creating a "SuperEgo" character, who could dress like a superhero, representing the drive for perfection, and he/she could act all arrogant and perfect, and fight his/her arch-nemesis, Dr. Id, who just lives for immediate gratification. Just a thought.)
NITPICK POINT: If Sadness can make an old memory into a sad one, why isn't the opposite also true? Why couldn't Joy touch an old sad memory and make it happy? Or why can't a memory associated with fear be turned into one of joy, like if Riley was afraid of a roller coaster while on the ride, but later learned to appreciate the thrill of it? Or if she later saw someone throw up on a roller coaster, then her memories of roller coasters would all be tainted with Disgust. Just a few simple examples.
Also starring the voices of Phyllis Smith (last seen in "Bad Teacher"), Bill Hader (last seen in "They Came Together"), Lewis Black (last seen in "Man of the Year"), Mindy Kaling (last seen in "This Is the End"), Richard Kind (last seen in "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn"), Diane Lane (last seen in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"), Kyle MacLachlan, Kaitlyn Dias, Paula Pell (also last seen in "Sisters"), Paula Poundstone, with cameos from Frank Oz (last heard in "The Muppet Christmas Carol"), Dave Goelz (ditto), John Ratzenberger (last seen in "She's Having a Baby"), Carlos Alazraqui, Rashida Jones, Flea.
RATING: 7 out of 10 mind manuals