Credit: Disney/Pixar

It might become the first Pixar movie to fail to win its opening weekend—thanks Jurassic dinosaurs—but Inside Out is poised to take its place in the pantheon that the studio has built since the original Toy Story changed the face of animation in 1995. Since Inside Out debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, critics have been falling all over themselves to herald the film as a return to form for Pixar, which hasn’t released a movie in two years. Monsters University, Brave, and Cars 2 were certainly well-received hits, but Inside Out is winning favorable comparisons to Pixar’s best, like WALL•E, Toy Story and its sequels, and Finding Nemo.

Conceived and co-directed by Pete Docter (Up), Inside Out tells the story of 11-year-old Riley, who encounters some emotional turbulence after her family relocates from Minnesota to San Francisco for her dad’s new job. Her emotions are having adventures of their own, as there are five disparate sections of her personality that can influence her mood and behavior. There’s Joy (Amy Poehler)—the ebullient go-getter who’s dominated Riley’s childhood years—Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (The Office‘s Phyliss Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Together, they are a team operating inside Riley’s mind, but when things are thrown off balance by all the turmoil and changes in Riley’s life, Joy and Sadness are forced on a journey that threatens to reshuffle the deck of emotions. “Each emotion gets a turn in the driver’s seat depending on what Riley’s going through in her day-to-day life,” writes EW’s Chris Nashwaty, in his A review. “And for the first time in Riley’s brief existence, it looks like Poehler’s Joy may not carry the day. There’s enough slapstick and silliness to keep kids entertained … But the film also has a bittersweet streak about the loss of innocence and the fleetingness of childhood.”

To read more of Nashawaty’s review and a sampling of other critics from across the country, click below:

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly) ▲

“They’ve made a movie that’s so smart and psychologically clever, it may leave little ones scratching their heads wondering why their parents are laughing so hard and getting so choked up. It’s the first film I know of that’s been marketed to kids, but is in actuality made for grown-ups.”

David Edelstein (New York)

Inside Out will likely help sad girls and boys and the grown-ups they become for as long as there are movies. Set largely inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, this teeming, tear-duct-draining, exhaustingly inventive, surreal animated comedy is going to be a new pop-culture touchstone. In all kinds of ways it’s a mind-opener.”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times)

“It’s like an animated Wizard of Oz adventure within Riley’s mind. … Directed with great flair and pitch-perfect timing, brimming with sparkling visuals, filled with first-rate voice performances, thrilling adventures and unforgettable moments, Inside Out is an instant classic. Someday the children of the children who will love this film, will love this film.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)

“It’ll be no surprise if Inside Out becomes as beloved as Toy Story and Finding Nemo, if only for its liberated, wildly inventive sense of wonder and breathless, breakneck pace. But this is that rare movie that transcends its role as pure entertainment to become something genuinely cathartic, even therapeutic, giving children a symbolic language with which to manage their unruliest emotions.”

Mary Pols (Time)

Inside Out is nearly hallucinogenic, entirely beautiful and easily the animation studio’s best release since 2010’s Toy Story 3. Stylistically Inside Out is nothing like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, but for its scope in examining the maturation process, it might well be called Childhood.”

A.O. Scott (New York Times)

“This world is both radically new—you’ve never seen anything like it—and instantly recognizable, as familiar aspects of consciousness are given shape and voice. Remember your imaginary childhood friend? Your earliest phobias? Your strangest dreams? You will, and you will also have a newly inspired understanding of how and why you remember those things. You will look at the screen and know yourself.”

“In the course of the whole year, there will probably be no American movie so concerned with looking inside, and so interested in the components of a meaningful life, as Inside Out. Just in terms of story efficiency, the movie is a marvel. It takes complicated and abstract ideas and communicates them with such deftness and clarity that even a small child could grasp them immediately.”

Rene Rodriguez (Miami Herald)

“Intellectually, the film is a jawdropper, but ironically, for a story about emotions, the picture is curiously distant. There are no big lessons to be learned in Inside Out, no morals to the fable, just an outpouring of artistry of an exceedingly high caliber and a keen understanding of human nature. … Kids will be engaged, but it’s the older viewers—people who have lived and felt a little longer than 11-year-olds—who will most appreciate this marvelous, ingenious work of art.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe)

“The voice acting is inspired, Poehler fraying with exasperation as Joy is backed bit by bit into doubt and Smith giving lovely comic shadings to what could be a one-note Debbie Downer. Black is hilariously short-tempered, Hader a convincing jellyfish; only Kaling is stuck without much to do. (It’s not easy being green.)”

Dana Stevens (Slate)

“The voice actors in both universes give such across-the-board strong performances that neither the denizens of Riley’s head nor those of her San Francisco home ever come off as generic stand-ins for a family role or an idea. As the droopy and Eeyore-like but ultimately indispensable character of Sadness, The Office’s Phyllis Smith pretty much steals the show…”

Wesley Morris (Grantland)

“[Smith] speaks in the flatland cadences of the American Midwest, a grandmother-librarian who’s never at the center of anything more cultural than a family portrait. … I found Sadness’s wimpiness and dumpiness annoying initially. But the movie gets behind her self-doubt until it’s empowered. You’re rooting for the movie to take what she represents seriously, and it’s moving when it finally does.”

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 93

Rotten Tomatoes: 98 percent

Rated: PG

Length: 94 minutes

Starring Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Phyliss Smith

Directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen

Distributor: Disney/Pixar

Inside Out
  • Movie
  • 93 minutes