Inside Out 2 (2024)

by - June 13th, 2024 - Movie Reviews


Pixar’s Inside Out 2 is an Insightful Psychological Mirror Worth Peering Into

Young Riley (voiced by Kensington Tallman) has entered puberty, and her primary emotions Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale), and Disgust (Liza Lapira) aren’t sure how to handle the situation. Things get even more confusing when a cadre of new emotions — Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) — all burst into Riley’s cerebral control room and proceed to take over.

Inside Out 2 (2024) | PHOTO: Pixar

That’s the setup for Pixar’s Inside Out 2. To say more than that would spoil the various twists and turns this strong sequel to 2015’s Academy Award-winning Inside Out takes en route to its heartwarming conclusion. Returning screenwriter Meg LeFauve teams up with co-writer Dave Holstein and director Kelsey Mann to craft a wonderfully graceful tale of self-actualization that had me reaching for tissues, and the younger viewers in my preview audience sat in rapt delight for practically every second of this feature’s briskly paced 96 minutes.

Does this second chapter in the life of Riley rise to the same instant-classic heights as its predecessor? Not quite. Is it still phenomenally entertaining, and does it tell a fascinating story I got immediately excited about? You bet.

This sequel has something to say. The creative team isn’t content to just repeat what happened the last time around. Instead, they’ve constructed a narrative that shows how personality is shaped. It examines how memories — good, bad, and in between — pour the core foundation of a person’s emotional temperament, every piece a building block that takes us from childhood to adolescence to adulthood and beyond.

The central conflict involves Anxiety. This emotion feels the frantic need to rip control away from Joy and the rest of the primary emotions. It’s certain it knows what is best for Riley, and with the assistance of Envy, Ennui, and Embarrassment, they’re sure they can guide their host down the right path toward happiness and acceptance. But while a little anxiety can go a long way, a lot of it can be unavoidably crippling, and it’s up to Joy and the other emotions to find that balance that will help Riley make life choices she can be proud of.

But whereas the original Inside Out wasn’t interested in gender binaries, this sequel does tend to be more conformist on that front. There’s not a lot of risk involved in how Riley presents herself. I do like that at her core, she still is an athlete, but there is more attention paid to standard concepts of femininity than the last time, and this somewhat lessens the universality of what she is dealing with. I also found it unavoidably disappointing.

Thankfully, the writing is inventive and imaginative. Riley’s battles with indecision, self-doubt, and, yes, anxiety are ones every human has been through. She’s at that age where friendships change and new worlds open up in ways that defy all expectations. One failure or unavoidable misstep can feel like a personal apocalypse. Every success is a sudden jolt of euphoria that can quickly give way to a paralyzing fear that this moment of ecstasy will never come again.

This is what Joy and her fellow primary emotions are dealing with. The way they journey through Riley’s psyche, searching for ways to incorporate Anxiety and the other new emotions, is full of surprises. How this ends up happening is even more so.

Inside Out 2 (2024) | PHOTO: Pixar

There’s an outstanding sequence in which Riley, sitting in a hockey penalty box, finds herself falling to pieces. She’s made mistakes that have hurt her best friends. She’s tried to show off in front of a high school senior girl whom she greatly admires, and inadvertently made a fool of herself. Riley can’t handle it, and while everyone else continues to scrimmage, she experiences the worst two minutes possible. All alone, with no one to give her guidance. It’s heartbreaking.

It’s not a spoiler to say that Joy is there for Riley. So are all of the other emotions, including the new ones that have all come along with the onset of puberty. But how they help their girl through this internal conflict and the ways they work together to ease her pain and give her the confidence she needs to persevere overflow in cathartic imagination. Inside Out 2 grows with Riley, and by doing so, it shows its audience a spiritual mirror that reflects their own self-image. It’s worth peering into. It’s even more difficult to forget.

– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle

Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)

Leave a Reply