Pixar's Inside Out goes inside the mind's control tower, populated with competing emotions and walls of whirligigs. When Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is born, her undeveloped infant brain is a void where one feeling, Joy (Amy Poehler), a Tinkerbell knockoff, oversees one button: Smile. Thirty-three seconds later, Riley weeps and a second feeling, Sadness (Phyllis Smith), pads in to grab command. Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) enter next, expanding Riley's emotional range with new gizmos and levers. Her first memories, each the size of a bowling ball, roll into the room on metal rails, and then they're pinballed into the shadows to light up new quadrants of Riley's mind and shape her personality.
Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen's overbright cartoon can't disguise that this is heady stuff -- a more natural fit for a black-and-white Bergman than a kiddie caper. For children, the inner world is an uncharted sea subject to storms -- a small gym-class slight can build into a swell of sorrow that, like, everyone in school totally hates them.
Joy refuses to let Riley sink. She banishes Sadness to a corner, and dominates Fear, Anger, and Disgust with her cheerleader zeal — this is the at-all-costs, ultra-American effervescence that showers children with gold stars. We're primed to resent Sadness, a mope in a turtleneck and glasses, who bumbles around the brain accidentally turning Riley's memories from sunny yellow to doleful blue. Yet Sadness doesn't enjoy making Riley miserable. By definition, how could she? Sadness simply can't behave according to the rules Joy has established, as lovely an explanation for depression as I've ever seen.