Inside Out

Inside_Out_2015_film_posterI have come to expect great things from Pixar; I think everyone has. All of their films have been amazing, from Toy Story to Ratatouille, each Pixar movie has entertained and delighted. That isn’t to say that some films weren’t better than others. Wall-E isn’t exactly the kind of film you watch over and over again, but you can’t call any of their movies bad. That’s a lot of pressure for an animation studio as it churns out its latest movie. But once again, Pixar comes through with Inside Out.

Inside Out is about the emotions inside of your head that make you who you are–Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear. These little guys control your feelings and actions; they are what make you tick. This story focuses on Riley, a twelve year old girl from Minnesota, and the emotions in her head. Riley is a happy kid who loves her family and playing hockey. Riley’s family moves to San Francisco, which, as you can imagine, really sends the emotions of a 12-year-old spinning. Amidst the chaos inside Riley’s head, Joy and Sadness get separated from headquarters and lost in long term memory with Riley’s core memories–the memories that shape her personality. Now, Joy and Sadness must work together to get back to headquarters before it’s too late for Riley.

As expected of any Pixar movie, Inside Out is very funny. The whole theater I was in was laughing out loud, kids and adults. It’s very fun, but also pulls on the emotional heart strings. The voice acting is very good, starring Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Mindy Kahing as Disgust, Lewis Black as Anger, and Bill Hader as Fear. Every character is entertaining, and it’s very funny to get a look at the emotions in other people’s heads (stay for the first few minutes of the credits). And much of the humor is very clever, so it will entertain adults as well as children.

Inside Out - Emotion Poster Collaboration

The only thing I didn’t like was one of the characters who helps Joy and Sadness, Riley’s childhood imaginary friend Bing Bong. I understood the purpose his character served in the plot, but he was too, too weird–like a pink cotton candy elephant. Even in the fun, imaginative world of Riley’s head, he didn’t fit with the rest of the characters. I’m sure the kids in the theater liked him, but I thought he was too weird and discolored the flavor of the middle part of the film.

But Inside Out isn’t just a funny children’s film. As also expected from Pixar films, it had an important message. The message may surprise children, but probably not adults. The message was that sadness has a place in our lives. While we want children, and adults, to be happy all the time and not suffer the pain of feeling sad, sadness is a part of life. And even though it hurts, it serves a good and noble purpose. It makes us sympathetic to others, empathetic to others. Because we have felt sadness, we can comfort those who are sad. Sadness also lets others know we need help, so they can comfort us. It can bring people together as much as joy can.

sadnessjoyLife is a mixture of every kind of emotion–joy, anger, fear, disgust, and sadness. They all serve a purpose. Inside Out is a must-see movie for children and adults.

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A Sister’s Love

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Sisters Anna (left) and Elsa (right).

This Frozen review is happening a week after I saw the movie because I had a difficult time putting my thoughts into words. Now I’m going to try, but I still don’t know if I’ll be able to contain my feels. After waiting so long for Disney’s next animated princess movie, it felt like Christmas morning when I finally woke up on the day Frozen came out. I was nervous that the movie would disappoint all of my expectations, but people aren’t lying when they say Frozen is up there with Disney classics like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the movie with minimal spoilers. It is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, but it’s as close to the original story as Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Elsa and Anna are princesses of the kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa, the oldest, was born with a special power—she can create snow. However, after she accidentally injures Anna, Elsa becomes afraid of her power and hides it as best she can. The king and queen decide it is best if they close the doors of Arendelle until Elsa can learn to control her power, and in order to protect her sister, Elsa distances herself from Anna. Fast forward a few years and Elsa is being crowned queen and the doors of the kingdom are being opened. But something goes wrong at the coronation and Elsa runs away, leaving Arendelle frozen in winter. Anna sets off after her sister, teaming up with ice harvester Kristoff. Adventure ensues.

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Prince Hans meets Princess Anna.

I can’t possibly talk about everything I want to with Frozen, so I’ll break it down into sections—the characters, the music, and the themes. First, the characters. I loved them all! I think the most surprising character was Olaf. When I first heard that Frozen would include a talking snowman, I thought it was too ridiculous. Boy was I wrong. Olaf was funny, heartwarming, and added a valuable part to the story as the representation of Elsa and Anna’s childhood friendship.

Anna is Disney’s most adorkable princess ever, genuine, persistent, funny, kind, and brave. She’s a very relatable princess and very endearing. Elsa is also extremely relatable to anyone who ever felt like they had to hide part of themselves. Elsa’s actions are motivated by her love for her sister, just as Anna’s actions are motivated by her love for Elsa. Kristoff is also endearing, especially when communicating with his reindeer Sven. He helps Anna find Elsa’s ice castle and is one of the few people who is an awe of Elsa’s power rather than afraid. And Hans, the prince who comes to Arendelle for Elsa’s coronation, is a major plot twist so I’m not going to say anything. But I liked it.

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Kristoff, the ice harvester who helps Anna travel up the mountain to find her sister Elsa.

The music was incredible, the songs (by Kristin Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez) and the score (by Christophe Beck). Idina Menzel, the voice of Elsa and the original star of the musical Wicked, has an incredible voice, so it is no surprise that her song “Let It Go” is amazing. The animation during this song (Elsa letting her power go and building an ice castle) is stunning and complements the music superbly. Most people know Kristen Bell (Anna) as girl detective Veronica Mars, but now everyone knows that she can sing! She has the quintessential Anna voice, perky and sincere, especially in the song “For The First Time In Forever”.

Emily and I saw Santino Fontana (Hans) on Broadway in Cinderella, so we both knew that he had a stunning voice. His duet with Kristen Bell, “Love Is An Open Door”, is a very fun love duet.  Jonathan Groff (Kristoff) also has an amazing voice, though he only has one small song, “Reindeer Are Better Than People”. There are a few chorus numbers in the movie, an opening song performed by ice harvesters that sets the tone of the movie very well and “Fixer Upper” sung by the rock trolls. People might be surprised by how many songs there are in Frozen, more than your typical Disney movie. The beginning seems to move from song to song, but they are all amazing so I didn’t mind!

Lastly, the themes. The story of Frozen is entertaining, heartwarming, and quite deep. Unlike most Disney films, the central relationship in Frozen is not romantic, but rather the love between the two sisters. This is not only refreshing, but deeply moving. In one scene, a troll tells Anna and Kristoff that only an act of true love can save them and the kingdom, but this act of true love ends up being Anna’s act of love for her sister. It’s heartwarming to see Disney acknowledge that there are different, but just as important, types of true love besides romance. That’s the theme surrounding Anna—unconditional love for her sister.

ImageThe theme surrounding Elsa is how she handles her power. After she accidentally injures Anna, a troll tells her that fear will be her greatest enemy. Elsa lives in constant fear that she will hurt her sister, and in her fear she fails to control her power. Alone on the mountain, Elsa gets the chance to “let it go”, but when Anna finally finds her, Elsa still hasn’t learned to control her fear, and she injures Anna again. It is only after Anna’s act of love that Elsa realizes that as long as she lives in fear she will never control her power. Once she understands that love is more powerful than fear, she saves Arendelle and herself.

Kristoff, like Anna, is a wonderful example of unconditional and selfless love. Hans is also wrapped in so many themes but I can’t because spoilers. Just go see the movie. It is truly Disney magic. It is charming, funny, heartwarming, and visually stunning. I loved it, and I can’t wait to see it again! And to see what Disney does next. We may be seeing a Third Golden Age, people.

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