Peter Sciretta's Reaction To Pixar's 'Inside Out' And Brad Bird's 'Tomorrowland'

The embargo has finally broken for Pixar's Inside Out and Brad Bird's Tomorrowland, and you can read the buzz reports compiling the early critical reactions at the links above. I've seen both films and have decided to write up my thoughts in a virtually spoiler-free reaction. Hit the jump for my thoughts.

Inside Out Review/Reaction

Pixar is back and this new film will register as a return to form for fans of the Emeryville animation studio who have been disappointed with the company's reliance on sequels as of late.

I remember when Brave was released, it was pushed as the first Pixar film with a strong female character in the starring role.

Inside Out is a much better film in that respect. Not only is there a relatable female character in the human world, but the emotions inside her head, with the two dominant emotions personified as female characters, also ring true. When I walked out of the film at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, I asked my colleague and friend Christina Warren if there was a better female-driven story not just in Pixar's catalogue, but in Disney animation history. You could maybe argue for some of the recent Disney animation princess movies like Frozen, Tangled or The Princess and The Frog, but for my money there isn't a stronger and more relatable female-focused Disney animated film than Inside Out.

And while the film takes place in the mind of a girl about to enter her teenage years, the story will definitely resonate with anyone with a heart, and a especially anyone who is a parent. CinemaCon is a convention for theater exhibitors who aren't often emotionally sucked into the films screened by studios, but there wasn't a dry eye in the house before the movie was over. (I also maybe shed some tears.)

I love the creativity that went into this concept and the ideas behind the world inside the mind of a young girl. That said, I was not impressed by the character and production design of that inside world, so it's not a surprise that (it seems) Disney is having trouble marketing those colorful characters to the public thus far. But trust me and the others who have seen the film, it is one of the best films I've seen this year so far.

On the next page you'll find my early Tomorrowland review/reaction.


Tomorrowland Review/Reaction

Before I give you my reaction of Tomorrowland, let me first express how excited I have been for this film. I'm a Disneyland fanatic who loved Brad Bird's films and also am a huge fan of Lost and Damon Lindelof. (Yeah, I even enjoyed Prometheus more than most, it seems.) So Tomorrowland seemed like it had the making to be my favorite film of all time. And after seeing the film twice now, once at the junket press screening and another time at the World Premiere at Disneyland, I can tell you I enjoyed it — but it wasn't initially what I expected.

I was surprised that Walt Disney isn't mentioned once in the movie, especially after the whole 1952 mystery box set-up which was used to hype the film early on. The film also has almost no ties to the Tomorrowland area seen in Disney Parks, something else which was hinted at from the 1952 mystery box and (apparently) also cut from the finished movie. I kind of wish more of the Plus Ultra backstory played out in the film itself, as that is so interesting. While Walt doesn't play too much into the film's plot (aside from the backstory and World's Fair opening), his ideals ring true in the film's message – which comes through pretty loudly. (OK, too loudly.)

But thats the problem with expectations: they can very easily lead to disappointment. And I was a bit disappointed after my first viewing of the film, but enjoyed it much more after my revisit days later. I walked out of the film most impressed by Raffey Cassidy, the young actress who plays Athena — I can't wait to see what her future holds in movies.

Tomorrowland feels like an old-school live-action Disney movie that I grew up on, more than anything that has been released by the Mouse House in the last decade. The action sequences are fun, filled with high tech gizmos employed cinematically in a way that only Brad Bird could design. There is a sequence in a comic book store that will be sure to have sci-fi fanboys smiling on the edge of their seats. And one long "single-shot" sequence in Tomorrowland is one of the most wondrous sequences in recent film history – so amazing and full of awe.

The movie isn't without its problems. I love the first hour and a half of the film, but the last half hour is a big mess. Last week in Page 2 I talked about the trouble of movies having no ending in sight, and Tomorrowland is definitely an example of this. It holds on to the mystery structure too hard and when we get to the climax we don't even feel the stakes or understand the motives of the antagonist. I'm being vague here because I don't want to spoil any of the adventure for you.

In response to the early Tomorrowland reviews, a reader asked me on twitter if I thought that "there is anything to the notion that critics go harder after "secretive" movies?" I admitted to him, yes some critics do seem to go harder on secretive movies but when the story delivers the goods it's almost universally praised. I do think some of the reviews have mischaracterized the film a bit, it's a better movie than they will have you believe — but the ending is a mess and doesn't deliver the goods. If you know that going in and you're not expecting Walt or Disneyland, I think the first hour and a half alone are worth $15 to see on a huge IMAX screen on opening weekend.