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Inside Out 2 (2024) Review

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Writer’s note: The second paragraph of this article (just below the first image) contains a basic outline of the film’s premise. There are no spoilers that weren’t already inferred in the film’s own trailer. However, if you want to completely avoid potential spoilers, skip over the second paragraph.

In years past, it was an undeniable fact that Pixar was the best in the business. It seemed that Pixar could do no wrong, as practically every film they released between 1995 and 2010 became an instant classic. Things started to waiver after the release of the emotional masterpiece, Inside Out (2015), seeming like Pixar had peaked with that film. This isn’t to say that the subsequent films weren’t amazing (as many of them were), it just seemed that Pixar movies were no longer viewed as event cinema. This wasn’t helped by the COVID-19 pandemic, which trained audiences to expect that every new Pixar film would be a streaming release. It seems though that the winds are changing again, as last year’s surprise hit Elemental (2023) placed Pixar back in the cultural conversation. This year, the studio is set to reclaim their place at the top with Inside Out 2 (2024).

Tony Hale, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Amy Poehler and Liza Lapira as Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy and Disgust.

Set roughly two years after the events of Inside Out, 13 year old Riley (Kensington Tallman) is about to enter high school. The personified emotions living inside her head – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Liza Lapira), Anger (Lewis Black) and Fear (Tony Hale) – have all been working well together, running a tight ship over Riley’s emotional and psychological growth. However, as Riley is now entering puberty, some new personified emotions join the pack, consisting of Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Anxiety (Maya Hawke). As Riley faces the pressure of fitting in amongst a new clique of high schoolers, Joy and Anxiety disagree over the best way to help Riley, with Anxiety staging a coup d’etat against the original five emotions. With Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust being repressed in Riley’s mind, the gang needs to break free and stop Anxiety from causing long term affects on Riley.

Across their impressive filmography, Pixar gained a reputation for being the animation studio that makes adults cry. They’ve given us toys with emotions, bugs with emotions, monsters with emotions, fish with emotions and robots with emotions. So, it only makes sense that Inside Out (their film about emotions with emotions) left audiences worldwide as tearful wrecks. Thus, expectations are sky high for Inside Out 2 to be a tear-jerker. Thankfully, those expectations have been mostly met, as Inside Out 2 has a handful of moments which will reduce adults to blubbering puddles on the floor. While these sequences aren’t as emotionally devastating as Bing Bong (Riley’s childhood imaginary friend) being forgotten, or Riley’s parents comforting her in the first film, the surprising realism of Inside Out 2’s tearful moments are just as resonant.

Maya Hawke as Anxiety.

That being said, the relatability of Riley’s journey works a little differently this time around. In broad strokes, Inside Out showed what a child goes through when they inevitably have to deal with change. Inside Out 2 does a similar journey depicting the growth from childhood into teenage-hood, but it’s less broad, as the focus is mostly on anxiety. The visual and narrative construction of how this affects the emotions inside Riley’s mind is flawlessly realised, and all too real for anyone who’s been there. While this is perfectly done, the tiny element holding Inside Out 2 back from being as masterful as its predecessor, is that everyone on planet earth can relate to being a child dealing with change for the first time, but not everyone can relate to having an anxiety attack. The original Inside Out’s broad spectrum makes it more universal, whereas Inside Out 2 may slightly limit the amount of people who will feel the gravity of the emotions. This doesn’t diminish the excellence of Inside Out 2‘s staggering achievement, as it’s the perfect educational manual of what stress and anxiety is. Anyone who hasn’t experienced it themselves, will finally understand what their friends or family go through. 

This is all fairly heavy stuff, which is unusual for an animated children’s film. From that viewpoint, it’s no different to the best of Pixar’s filmography, as they routinely deliver messages which fly above children’s heads. Inside Out was the most obvious offender of this, but Inside Out 2 outdoes its predecessor. Children may not have fully understood Inside Out, but they could surely recognise the scenario of what Riley was experiencing, and what Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust meant. There’s very little chance that children will immediately understand the complexities of the new emotions, but the effective storytelling means that they may be prepared by the time they reach Riley’s age. This makes Inside Out 2 particularly special, as there’s very few films which act as a public service, as well as being entertaining.

Kensington Tallman as Riley.

“Entertaining” is also a key word to describe the experience of watching Inside Out 2. Even amongst all the complex psychology, there’s more than enough humour, sweetness and visual splendour. This is where both children and adults will be enjoying the film in equal measure, as these elements will certainly generate guffaws of laughter from all ages. Impressively, these moments of humour manage to appeal to everyone without being juvenile. This is due to the film’s beautifully realised animation, which is both colourful, clever and imaginative. No one expected Pixar would be able match or exceed the visual beauty of the original film, but Inside Out 2 achieved the impossible and delivered an even more striking experience than Inside Out. Across these two films, it appears that this is the series where Pixar experiments with their animation style, so it will be exciting to see what they come up with for the inevitable third film.

Paul Walter Hauser, Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri and Adèle Exarchopoulos as Embarrassment, Anxiety, Envy and Ennui.

Inside Out was always going to be an incredibly hard act to follow, so the fact that Inside Out 2 emerges as a worthy successor to the original is a minor miracle. With it’s wonderful storytelling, gorgeous visuals, and thoughtful message, Inside Out 2 has confirmed Pixar’s place back to the top of event cinema.

8/10

Best way to watch it: At a late session. Interestingly, this is a kids film that you’d want to watch in a cinema full of adults.

Inside Out 2 Poster.

Robert Fantozzi

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