Inside Out 2 (2024, dir. Kelsey Mann)

by | Jun 14, 2024

Certificate: U

Running Time: 96 mins

UK Distributor: Disney

UK Release Date: 14 June 2024

WHO’S IN INSIDE OUT 2?

Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Tony Hale, Liza Lapira, Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Paul Walter Hauser, Kensington Tallman, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Lilimar, Paula Pell, Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green, Grace Lu, Yvette Nicole Brown, John Ratzenberger, June Squibb, Ron Funches, Yong Yea, Sarayu Blue, Flea, Dave Goelz, James Austin Johnson, Bobby Moynihan, Frank Oz, Paula Poundstone, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Kirk Thatcher

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Kelsey Mann (director), Dave Holstein and Meg LeFauve (writers), Mark Nielsen (producer), Andrea Datzman (composer), Adam Habib and Jonathan Pytko (cinematographers), Maurissa Horwitz (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A new horde of emotions cause turmoil for young teen Riley (Tallman)…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON INSIDE OUT 2?

Of all the Pixar movies that have gotten sequels, prequels or spin-offs over the years, Inside Out is perhaps one of the very few where a follow-up makes complete sense for the story. Its original concept, that of anthropomorphising the emotions of a young girl who all operate inside her developing mind, immediately opens up questions that could only be answered by a sequel. What happens when she reaches puberty? How about if she finds love? Or even experiences sudden loss? When it comes to showing how these emotions react to all these significant life changes across one, two, or many other further chapters, the possibilities are practically endless.

For Inside Out 2, though, they’re keeping things simple enough by exploring the puberty question. In doing so, they’ve made a follow-up that isn’t quite on the same level as the first film, but in terms of exploring some mature and often quite profound themes about our feelings and how we control them, it is much closer than it may have any right to be.

Taking place a year after the events of the first film, young Riley (voiced by Kensington Tallman) has just become a teenager and is thriving in her preferred sport of hockey with her best friends Bree (Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green) and Grace (Grace Lu). She is in a pretty good state overall, thanks to her emotions Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Tony Hale), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Liza Lapira) who have managed to harmoniously guide her while keeping her Sense of Self – which dictates Riley’s entire personality – intact.

Then, just as Riley is about to attend hockey camp with her friends, the puberty alarm literally goes off, bringing about numerous changes throughout Riley’s mind. Most prominently, there’s the arrival of new emotions like Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and last but far from least Anxiety (Maya Hawke), a particularly nerved being who takes control by storing the five core emotions away, banishing the Sense of Self to the back of the mind, and directing Riley to make a number of emotionally-charged decisions at camp that may just make things worse.

In some ways, Inside Out 2 shares some connective tissue with Pixar’s very first sequel Toy Story 2. Aside from the fact that it too follows up a critically acclaimed and wondrously written original, it also finds intriguing new ways to evolve this world and its characters without betraying the essence of either. That film, for instance, saw Woody, Buzz et al begin to grapple with the fact that Andy wouldn’t be a kid forever, and find ways to mentally prepare for that inevitable change. This one is all about change, as Riley’s pubescent mind undergoes numerous alterations that correspond with the various new emotions that take charge, especially Anxiety in all her nerved, Muppet-on-crack-cocaine glory. Both films, ultimately, maintain the core appeal of their predecessors, which in Inside Out 2’s case is its wondrously creative depiction of all these abstract psychological concepts – from a Stream of Consciousness that is just an actual stream with random objects floating by, to a great big void of contemptuous irony known specifically as a “sar-chasm” – as well as its affective and, indeed, emotional narrative.

Concerning the former, director Kelsey Mann and screenwriters Dave Holstein and Meg LeFauve have considerable fun with pushing the comedic potential of their premise as far as they can, in the process creating a number of clever sequences and very funny side-characters like a 2D-animated character from a pre-school cartoon that Riley used to watch (complete with an obnoxious fanny pack named Pouchy that directly parodies the talking map from Dora the Explorer). Along with its colourful and rather striking animation, particularly – and I know this sounds a bit weird –the sweat that is drenched all over the faces of Riley and her fellow hockey players, the filmmakers are very much in tune to this endlessly imaginative world and how to expand it as per the story being told.

They also do not neglect that these emotions are well-rounded and enjoyable characters in their own right, which contribute heavily to the film’s own poignancy. Amy Poehler’s Joy continues to be, somewhat predictively, a delightful presence throughout, and there are fun supporting roles for emotions old and new, from Lewis Black’s Anger to Ayo Edebiri’s Envy. Anxiety, though, is the film’s best creation, for what could have just been a non-stop display of nervous and jittery tics is transformed into a tragic and deeply relatable figure that gives the film some of its most powerful moments. As someone with a severe case of anxiety, I was quite taken aback by how closely the screenwriters and animators were able to personify and articulate such a crippling emotion, and especially by addressing exactly how, by fuelling the nervous thoughts and fears of things beyond our own control, it only pushes us further away from what makes us who we are.

Despite all those touching attributes, Inside Out 2 does still fall behind the original, for its slight repeating of certain plot beats during the third act, as well as an overall lighter emotional approach. However, there is still enough about it to give it some considerable appreciation, and to hope that even more aspects of Riley’s ever-growing mind will evolve even further in future movies.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Inside Out 2 is a strong follow-up to Pixar’s modern classic that isn’t quite on the same emotional level as its predecessor, but has enough profundity within its themes and evolution of the core concept that give it plenty of worthiness.

Four of of five stars

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