Latest Pixar offering delves intriguingly into human mind

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Opening this weekend

Inside Out This animated feature dramatizes the workings of the human mind by personifying the emotions, in this case those of a 12-year-old girl named Riley. Working in a NASA-like mission control is our heroine is Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), a radiant Tinkerbell-like sprite determined to keep Riley happy; her colleagues are Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), isgust (Mindy Kaling) and frumpy, blue-skinned Sadness (Phyllis Smith).

The team’s job is to create memories, here seen as tiny transparent globes glowing with their emotional coloring—gold for Joy, red for Anger, and so forth. Joy tries hard to keep Sadness from touching Riley’s memories and tingeing them blue, but when Riley moves from Minnesota, where she has a best friend and plays hockey, to San Francisco, Joy finds it harder to suppress Sadness.

Eventually the emotional crises that come with a move during childhood cause Joy and Sadness to get separated from the headquarters, leaving Fear, Anger and Disgust in charge. The rest of the movie concerns their Bunyan-esque journey through Riley’s personality to take over again in headquarters.

The conceit of this movie isn’t new. It wasn’t new as the premise of the early-‘90s Fox sitcom Herman’s Head, and wasn’t even new as one of the funnier segments of Woody Allen’s 1972 Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) or the 1970 movie of Norman Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth.

But it’s possible that no one’s ever done this idea quite as well as Inside Out. One’s expectations for Pixar’s features tend to be pretty high, but even so I wasn’t prepared for how deeply imagined this movie is, or how emotionally potent. Or, for that matter, how wise: the theme is emotional gestalt, and the role of sadness in a healthy personality.

I walked out of the theatre feeling like I’d seen a masterpiece, and a few days later this doesn’t feel like an overreaction. It may be the best movie I’ve seen all year. My only concern is that Inside Out is so fast and complex that some of its subtleties may get past smaller children—the gags about abstract thought could leave a college kid studying for a psych final feeling confused. But even so, the movie is so full of color and comedy that kids will likely enjoy it even if they don’t entirely get it.

Still playing

Jurassic WorldThe premise of this fourth Jurassic Park film is that Jurassic World is now up and running as a major international tourist attraction, with dinosaur petting zoos and boat excursions and a Sea World-style show with a mosasaurus leaping for a hanging shark like a porpoise leaping for a sardine. It also has, for that matter, a Starbucks and a Pandora jeweler and a gallery sponsored by Samsung—this movie has more product placement than Clueless, and to a similarly disingenuous satirical point.

The park’s geneticists have created a 50-foot tall dino-hybrid monster dubbed Indominus Rex. This toothy titan breaks free, kills people and other dinosaurs, sets other creatures free in the wake of his destruction, and generally unleashes pandemonium.

So, how is it? Look, I’m a dinosaur geek, so it’s hopeless asking me for a balanced view of a dinosaur movie. But I remember being intrigued by the choice of the director, Colin Trevorrow, whose only previous feature was the sweet but low-key romantic time-travel comedy Safety Not Guaranteed. He seemed like an offbeat choice for a special-effects-bloated spectacle.

Trevorrow was just the right choice, as it turned out. He has a peculiar sense of humor and, better yet, no significant sense of decorum, and after setting us up with a relatively straight-faced opening quarter, he starts putting funky little spins on notions from King Kong to the Japanese monster flicks to the earlier films in this series, and he gradually lets the movie go crazy and messy. In a good way.

The showpiece dinosaur scenes have a buoyant exuberance that’s really fun. The one in which two boys, riding in a transparent observation sphere, are bounced around like a pinball between a herd of panicking ankylosaurs is ready made to be a real ride in Universal’s actual theme par

Inside Out is rated PG and Jurassic World are rated PG-13. Both play at Tempe Marketplace, Chandler Fashion 20 and other multiplexes Valleywide.

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