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Review: Inside Out 2 (2024)

Inside Out 2 (2024)

Directed by: Kelsey Mann

Premise: A sequel to the 2015 film. Inside of each person’s head is a control room where characters who represent our emotions manage our reactions, personality, and memory. Riley (voice of Kensington Tallman) reaches puberty which introduces an entirely new set of emotions who wrestle for control.

What Works: Inside Out 2 does its job as a sequel. It expands the story world and complicates the characters and the conflicts. The filmmakers apply the challenges of puberty to Inside Out’s conceit which gives the concept new dimensions. The core cast of characters return, including Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, but they are paired with a new set of emotions: Anxiety, Envy, Ennui, and Embarrassment. The addition of these new characters addresses one of the flaws of the first picture. The original set of characters were not a comprehensive representation of our emotions; introducing the new set of characters at this stage makes sense and parallels Riley’s emotional development. The additional characters parallel the original team, especially Anxiety and Joy (voices of Maya Hawke and Amy Poehler) who are controlling personalities and try to mastermind Riley’s life. The conflict primarily arises from Joy and Anxiety’s competing visions and Inside Out 2 is a good example of Pixar’s strengths in storytelling. Inside Out 2 doesn’t have a villain but the characters do have conflicts that they have to reconcile and the filmmakers complicate the character’s desires. As in many Pixar films, the protagonists come within reach of their goal only to realize that what they want is not necessarily what they need and the characters have to amend their understanding of themselves and the world in order to overcome the obstacle before them. This is more complicated and mature storytelling than we typically get in Hollywood films, even those geared at adults. The filmmakers find ways to visualize our sense of self in a way that is understandable to children and yet will speak to older viewers especially in the way Inside Out 2 asks us to embrace sadness as an inherent part of life and account for the holistic way we form our identity.

What Doesn’t: Inside Out 2 tends to play it safe insofar as it repeats the basic story pattern of its predecessor. Once again, the film starts with Joy micromanaging the control room and Riley’s psyche until she is marooned in the far reaches of the brain and must find her way back, coming to new realizations along the way. This pattern is found throughout Pixar’s filmography as seen in Finding Nemo, Cars, Toy Story 2, and Coco. Due to its familiarity, Inside Out 2 never feels as fresh and insightful as its predecessor nor is it quite as affecting.

Bottom Line: Inside Out 2 may not top the first film in its inventiveness or emotional impact but the sequel impresses in its willingness and ability to visualize abstract psychological concepts and do so in a way that is entertaining and understandable. The Inside Out pictures sit alongside the Toy Story series among the best of Pixar’s feature films.

Episode: #1001 (June 23, 2024)