Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley's main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.
When I first saw Pixar's 'Inside Out' I was floored by its seemingly simple complexity. Here's a movie that deals with complex emotions and thought processes with simple logic, chief of which is the personification of emotions inside someone's mind. The intricacies of the mind have been distilled – but most definitely not dumbed down to an ingeniously straightforward visualization involving anthropomorphized emotions, balls that store memories, literal trains of thought, islands of personality, and an imagination land. Every time a new concept involving the mind is introduced it's fascinating, but most importantly its purpose is easily understood by younger viewers.
It's true that the basis of 'Inside Out' isn't necessarily original. An early '90s sitcom entitle 'Herman's Head' first introduced the idea of personified emotions controlling the main character. However, 'Inside Out' most definitely expounds and improves upon the formula.
The mind in question belongs to 11-year-old Riley. An already formidable time of youth is exacerbated by the fact that Riley's family has been uprooted from an idyllic existence in Minnesota and forced to relocate to San Francisco because of her dad's job.
Her mind is populated by her core emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler) normally takes the lead, piloting the control board and trying desperately to keep Sadness (Phyllis Smith) from touching any of Riley's important memories, or mucking up her happiness. Anger (Lewis Black) provides Riley's fiery side; Disgust (Mindy Kaling) keeps her safe from horrible things like broccoli; and Fear (Bill Hader) warns her of impending danger (on a sidenote, one wonders what the film is trying to convey by making Sadness the chief emotion for Riley's mom while her dad is seemingly controlled by anger).
In perfect Pixar fashion the first five minutes set the stage so beautifully, by explaining the premise in such a way that we feel like we're figuring it out on our own. It isn't as visually interpretive as, say, 'Up,' but it does provide enough stunning scene-setting visuals, tight narration, and perfectly placed life-affirming scenarios to perfectly set up the film's endearing foundation.
Since 'Up,' Pixar has produced three sequels to established franchises, along with the original 'Brave' for good measure. What's been missing from the Pixar lineup in the past few years is the excitement of discovery. Yes, 'Toy Story 3' was really good, but we're already familiar with that world. In 'Inside Out' we get to see Pixar at the top of their game again. With director Pete Docter at the helm, we're whisked away into a completely immersive and imaginative universe that never ceases to astound.
'Inside Out' will truly speak to the old and young alike. There's something so tangible about how memories are stored in balls and logged away on endless mind-shelves, some of them never to be seen again (except that one annoying commercial jingle that spontaneously pops into your head, of course). Whenever the film introduces a new visualization of a different part of the mind it's instantly relatable. There isn't one moment, or one idea, that seems counterintuitive or ridiculous. Like a complex weave of brain synapses, 'Inside Out' intertwines the complexities of the human mind with a beautiful simplicity.
I hesitate to run down the list of the ingenious aspects in the film. They are simply too fun and too inventive to spoil even to the least degree. Suffice to say, 'Inside Out' brazenly explores an alien world with startlingly astute observations. The interactions between the emotions are synchronously hilarious and poignant. The emotional heft of the movie is palpable. It's almost as if you can feel the parents in the audience understanding a little more about their kids, and the kids in the audience learning a little more about themselves.
I admit to being floored by 'Inside Out.' While the idea has been attempted before, it feels new here because Docter, and Pixar have added so much more meaning to it. But, perhaps the best review the movie can ultimately receive is the reaction from my 4-year-old son who immediately asked my wife to look inside his ear to see if she could see the people in his head; and who on a daily basis informs us that "Joy is driving me today."
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The 'Inside Out' Ultimate Collector's Edition is a four-disc release featuring one Blu-ray 3D, two Blu-ray Discs (one Feature Film / Bonus Materials, one Bonus Materials), one DVD, and redemption code instructions for a Digital HD copy (expiration date: 11/3/2020) via Disney Movies Anywhere. This multi-disc set stands out from the 2D-only release because of its red, lenticular slip cover. All three Blu-rays are labeled Regions A, B, and C, while the DVD is NTSC Region 1 locked. There are no forced trailers on the Blu-ray 3D.
Much like its 2D counterpart, and to no one's surprise at all, 'Inside Out' looks terrific on Blu-ray 3D.
Framed in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and encoded in MVC MPEG-4, 'Inside Out - 3D' takes everything that worked about the 2D release -- strong colors, inky blacks, and a copious amount of fine details -- and extends those qualities out along the Z-Axis. I know a few of our readers thought the theatrical 3D presentation was mediocre, but this Blu-ray suffered no such fate. In fact, for those who enjoy pop-out effects, you'll be happy to know that the emotion "console" in Riley's mind -- the controller around which all her Emotions gather and drive Riley -- effectively juts out into your living room in nearly every shot. Depth is also appreciable, particularily when exploring the vast and varied terrains outside the control center. Overall, I was very impressed with this 3D presentation, and found it equal to the 2D version in terms of color reproduction and quality; however, despite these strengths I'm not sure if stereo improves the viewing experience in the way the best 3D does. As such, let's call this a 4.8-star 3D Blu-ray, rounded up to 5 stars.
Also, it's worth noting that, after having the pleasure of watching a few 'Inside Out' clips in 4K Dolby Vision (2D) and revisting this film on Blu-ray, I missed the added color gamut of HDR and finer details visible on things like sets and character faces. Granted, it's not fair comparing a 60' screen at 31ftL to a 65" Plasma in 3D, which is why I haven't adjusted the 3D Video score, but knowing this movie can look even better than it does here, I'm quite anxious to view this title in either UHD streaming (hopefully on VUDU with Dolby Vision) or on Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray. Regardless, I felt it important to note that, while it does the best it can with the format provided, 'Inside Out' film has looked noticeably better in other presentation formats.
'Inside Out' sports a DTS-Master Audio 7.1 mix that is every bit as lively and nuanced as its video counterpart. The sound mix here is fully realized, providing an impressive surround sound experience that immerses anyone who may be listening.
First off, dialogue is clear up front. Directionality is razor-sharp as voices bounce around the sound field. Echoes are amazingly accurate, reverberating through the front, side, then rear speakers as characters voices bounce off the cavernous walls of Long-term Memory.
LFE booms when Jangles the Clown wakes up and starts rampaging through Dream Productions. There are far too many demo-worthy moments to list them all. Just like the video presentation, the audio is perfect. Each sound effect is crystal clear, prioritization is pristine, and involvement of the surround speakers is sublime. There isn't an aspect of this audio presentation that needs work. It's as good as it gets.
'Lava - 3D' (HD, 7 min.) – The short film that played before 'Inside Out' in theaters is included here in 3D.
Audio Commentary – A commentary is provided by director Pete Docter and co-director Ronnie Del Carmen. They're joined, as the commentary goes along, by others like Bill Hader and directory of photography Patrick Lin. Docter provides a lot of insight into how the movie was created. Even more fascinating is learning about the cinematography process as it pertains to a computer-animated film such as this. It's something I've never really thought about, but it's fun to learn about the differences and similarities to traditional filmmaking.
'Lava' (HD, 7 min.) – The short film that played before 'Inside Out' in theaters is included. It was a divisive film to say the least. Many people thought its cloying sentimentality was too much to stomach, while others were transfixed by its charming sweetness. Whatever your thoughts on it, this much is for sure, that song sticks in your head forever.
'Riley's First Date' (HD, 5 min.) – A new short film has been created for this release. One of the more creative and funny aspects of the movie was that it went inside the heads of other people around Riley. Here we get more of that as Riley's dad encounters a boy who has come to call on his daughter. It's a great little short that's well worth your time.
Paths to Pixar: The Women of 'Inside Out' (HD, 11 min.) – A group of interviews featuring the female members of the voice cast – Poehler, Kaling and Smith – is included here.
Mixed Emotions (HD, 7 min.) – We get a brief look at some of the emotions that were cut from the final draft of the script. Also, we get to see how the final characters evolved in the animation process.
I am in total aggreement with my colleage, Aaron about this film. Along with 'Mad Max: Fury Road', 'Inside Out' is not only one of my favorite films of 2015, but a movie that takes Pixar back to its glory days of character-driven stories that ooze with invention and innovation. It's a film that reminds you what it's like to be a kid again, while showing the importance in complex, adult emotions. It's a beautiful, fun, and exciting.
The 'Inside Out' Ultimate Collector's Edition offers everything from the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack plus a 3D Blu-ray for, give or take, a $5 premium. This set boasts an excellent 3D presentation that takes equal advantage of depth and pop out effects, as well as reference quality 2D video and 7.1 DTS-HD MA surround sound. Special Features are also plentiful. If you're 3D fan, this set remains Must Own (if not, stick with the 2D release). However, if you're considering upgrading to 4K this holiday season, you might want to check out UHD streaming options and/or wait for the Ultra HD Blu-ray -- where this film, thanks to added resolution and an expanded color gamut, may look even better (though, to be fair, will not offer a 3D option).