Blu-ray 3D Review: Inside Out (Ultimate Collector's Edition)

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With Disney and Pixar's summer megahit Inside Out we have a real odd duck of a film: something wildly inventive and ambitious, yet missing its intended emotional impact completely. After noting the rapturous critical response, liberally laced with proclamations that Inside Out is "not just for kids!" and so on, I screened Disney's new Blu-ray with increased expectations. The new Ultimate Collector's Edition packs in both 3D and 2D Blu-ray discs, plus an additional Blu-ray disc of special features and a standard DVD version of the film. Visually and sonically, Inside Out thoroughly impresses, but its depiction of the inner workings of a preteen girl's mind falls woefully short of anything truly insightful.

Not caring for Inside Out is an undeniably unpopular opinion, but for me the whole concept didn't work. As soon as Riley (voiced as an 11-year-old by Kaitlyn Dias) is born to Jill (Diane Lane) and Bill (Kyle MacLachlan) Andersen, we journey inside her very psyche. We gradually become acquainted with Riley's "core emotions"—Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and most prominently Joy (Amy Poehler). Sort of like the little aliens inside of Eddie Murphy's "starship" in Meet Dave, these little animated emoticons run around vying for control of Riley's mood and memories. 
inside out 1 (380x211).jpg When 11-year-old Riley is forced to move with her folks to move from Minnesota to San Francisco, the girl falls into a deep funk. Within her mind, the little glowing bowling ball-esque visual representations of her memories are tainted by Sadness' melancholy, throwing Joy into a tizzy as Riley's mood and temperament become increasingly complex. It's all initially engrossing—an attempt at exceptional depth, even by Pixar standards. Quite obviously a Herculean effort was invested in creating this vast, imaginative mindscape, establishing a visually-engaging system in which memories are stored like so many files (some wind up in the abyss of a "Memory Dump," where they're literally discarded like trash) and where various personality traits exist as "islands."

inside out 4 (280x210).jpgThe main issue is that we simply never get to know Riley as an individual. Too limited time is spent in the "real world," where Riley interacts with her parents and others. The implication is: people aren't in control, the cute little "emotion" sprites that run around in our minds are the real bosses—constantly manipulating us, since the individual is but a mere vessel. It's almost like Being John Malkovich, in which people were sometimes inhabited and controlled by multiple additional personalities. The "emotions" in Riley's have more personality than she does. Making matters worse, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust are nothing more than one-note stereotypes. Frankly, it paints a picture of an automaton's life (because, after all, that's what people are when stripped of their own unpredictability and ingenuity) that is far more depressing than anything we actually see Riley experience in her young life.

Ah, but what a visual experience. The 3D Blu-ray dazzles with a candy-colored array of graphics that almost becomes dizzying by the time film concludes. Plenty of spatial definition makes this a worthwhile 3D presentation, especially when it comes to the fantastical, cavernous interior landscapes without Riley's mind. Kudos to Pixar's animation wizards who keep the visual surprises coming throughout the entire 95 minute runtime. The 2D version is only a step down when compared directly to the 3D, as it offers an entirely satisfying experience as well. 
inside out 3 (380x213).jpg Every bit as inventive, albeit in generally more subtle ways, is the DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround mix. Frequent Pixar-collaborator Michael Giacchino's score is a big winner here, as is the multitude of immersive sound effects that highlight a typically (for Disney and Pixar) excellent sonic experience.

Special features are found mostly on the 2D movie disc as well as the additional 2D BD. The commentary track by director Pete Docter and his co-writer Ronnie del Carmen is the main attraction on the movie disc. There are a pair of shorts: Riley's First Date and the non-Inside Out-related Lava (the latter is on the 3D disc, too). There are also a couple of short-ish featurettes ("Paths to Pixar": 11 minutes, "Mixed Emotions": seven minutes).

The second Blu-ray disc holds over an hour of additional material, not the least interesting of which being four unfinished deleted scenes, with introductions by director Pete Docter. The six featurettes are a mixed bag, with the most interesting being the ones detailing the film's mentally far-reaching concept: "Story of the Story" (ten minutes), "Mapping the Mind" (eight minutes). On a more tech-based level, we get "Into the Unknown: The Sound of Inside Out" and "The Misunderstood Art of Animation Film Editing."

Kids who aren't put off by the plot, which eases into monotony that winds up padding an already-lean runtime, will likely respond to cuteness of it all. Make no mistake: anyone breathlessly proclaiming "Inside Out is aimed at all ages!" is off their rocker. This is still very much a kids' movie, albeit one of admirable ambition. Luckily the whole production is such an audio/visual stunner, the Blu-ray package is solid in terms of value for the dollar.

inside out BD cover (302x380).jpg

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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