And the Oscar for Best Animated Feature goes to ...

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, but there hasn’t been anything better yet this year, and with only the stop-motion “Le Petit Prince” and “The Good Dinosaur” (like “Inside Out,” a Disney-Pixar production) even on my radar of hope, “Inside Out” is currently way out in front of the pack.

My only complaint about this newest gem is the same one I’ve used a few times before, and it’s really about my own shortcomings as a movie watcher. There’s so much going on here, so many sight gags, visual references (I managed to catch “docpete,” an inversion of the director’s name, on someone’s phone list), and verbal jokes, I feel I might have missed as many as I saw.

But let’s continue on to the praise. As wise and thoughtful as it is hilarious and eye-popping, the film is about what’s going on inside the head of happy 11-year-old Riley who, along with her mom and dad, has been uprooted from her familiar life in Minnesota and transplanted to San Francisco, where dad is putting together a start-up company.

Helping her along the way, actually guiding her every decision, are five emotions that live and work in her head, or as the film aptly puts it, her Headquarters. They are: Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black – perfect casting!), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Plenty of other emotions could have been fit in, and some were in earlier drafts of the script, but trust me, this quintet does the trick.

Joy is the peppy narrator (Poehler keeps it just short of overly peppy) who’s steering this young girl, and getting assistance from her color-coordinated cohorts. She shows us Riley’s memories in flashback, explains that the “Islands of Personality” outside of Headquarters are “what make Riley Riley,” and warns her coworkers – making sure that Sadness is well aware – that no one should touch Riley’s core memories, because if they’re accidentally changed, they can’t be changed back.

Anyone want to wager a guess at what happens? Just let it be known that Sadness is having some sadness issues. But that’s normal in this world. I mean, Anger is having anger issues. He gets the biggest laughs when he actually blows his top – and he’s bright red to begin with. A more subtle sort of humor has Anger getting really happy when he sees a traffic snarl on San Francisco’s curvy, notoriously jammed-up Lombard Street.

While we’re seeing what makes Riley tick, we’re also watching her emotions see the world through her eyes, on a big screen in Headquarters. With only a fumble or two once in a while, things are going pretty smooth, until through a freak accident, Joy and Sadness get stuck outside of HQ, trying hard to get back in while the other three emotions attempt to keep some normalcy in the little girl’s life.

But if you mess with someone’s emotions, or they go out of balance, you’re going to get some emotional reactions. More of the film’s comic brilliance comes through when, noticing a change in Riley’s behavior in, her parents become concerned, and soon we go zooming into THEIR Headquarters to see what’s making them do what they do.

“Inside Out” is an hour and a half of almost non-stop action, humor and inventiveness. It gives us a great screen team of Joy and Sadness, some weird supporting roles (look for a roller coaster of emotions launched by Riley’s former imaginary friend Bing Bong) and, best of all, a steady supply of broccoli bashing.

There’s also a buildup to some tension and even possible danger. So, can Joy save the day? Or will it be Sadness? It’s a Disney/Pixar film. Someone’s got to!

Two important notes: Get there early to see the sweet and funny musical short “Lava” that’s on just before the feature, and stay for the end credits. Cat lovers might not be happy with what they see there, but the rest of us will laugh heartily.

Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.

INSIDE OUT
Written by Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Pete Docter; directed by Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen
With voices of Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling
Rated PG