Inside Out 2 – Film Review

Nine years after the release of Inside Out, Disney Pixar has released the much-anticipated sequel Inside Out 2. After helping Riley navigate her big move from Minnesota to San Francisco, her emotions Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust are facing a whole new challenge: puberty.

As Riley turns thirteen and prepares to begin life as a high schooler, an onslaught of new emotions make themselves at home in her brain, wreaking havoc on her relationships with her parents and closest friends. With much of the voice cast returning, Tony Hale and Liza Lapira join as Fear and Disgust (taking over the roles from Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling) with new additions Maya Hawke as Anxiety, Ayo Edebiri as Envy, Adèle Exarchopoulos as Ennui, and Paul Walter Hauser as Embarrassment.

Once again, we follow Joy (Amy Poehler), Riley’s happy-go-lucky lead emotion. After the events of Inside Out, Joy has learned the value of her fellow emotions, giving Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger equal opportunity to influence Riley when needed and where once Riley’s memories were all yellow as a result of Joy’s dictatorial influence, teenage Riley’s memories are a rainbow of blended colours, alluding to Joy and Riley’s personal development and understanding that every emotion has their place.

But this new sense of comradery and contentment amongst Riley’s emotions is short lived, thanks to the Puberty Alarm announcing the arrival of Anxiety, a wide-mouthed and nervous looking orange emotion with a sprout of wiry hair and two armloads of baggage. Also joining Anxiety is Ennui, a skinny and bored looking dark purple emotion with a strong French accent, Envy, a small but mighty doe-eyed blue-green emotion, and Embarrassment, a huge and hulking blush-pink presence who seems to always be at a loss for words.

There is even a brief cameo from old lady Nostalgia, a grey emotion who appears at inopportune times to reminisce on the “good ol’ days”. With the arrival of so many new emotions, Joy finds herself once again feeling displaced, overwhelmed, and out of control. When Riley heads off to a Hockey camp, Anxiety, concerned with protecting Riley and her future at all costs, takes complete control of Headquarters and inadvertently leads her down a path of lying, rule breaking, and other bad behaviour, unlocking deep fears of inadequacy and uncertainty.

As Riley’s Anxiety begins to take over, her old emotions are forcibly suppressed and locked away in a “prison” of her mind. Inside Out 2 portrays this very cleverly as a large vault, dark and confined with no possibility for escape. There we are introduced to Riley’s “secrets”, some dark and mysterious, others juvenile or embarrassing. But not everything in Riley’s mind is new; throughout the film we revisit places from Inside Out like her long-term memory, which still looks much the same except for its increase in size, her Islands of Personality and old gags like the Triple Dent Gum jingle. We also return to Imagination Land but discover new concepts like Mount Crushmore that features all the boys (real or fictional) that Riley developed a crush on carved into stone.

The film also explores new developments like the “sar-casm” that rips through Riley’s long-term memory once Ennui gets her hands on the controls, and her Stream of Consciousness where random objects float past whenever she thinks about them. Newer existential concepts like our “sense of self” that often begins to develop as we reach our teen years gives Inside Out 2 some weightier, more mature layers to chew on than before. Through new and reworked visual representations of the brain, Inside Out 2 explores how puberty wreaks havoc on the teenage mind, weaponising our imagination to feed our fears with made up scenarios of failure and ostracism.

Just like the prequel, Inside Out 2 features some solid voice work; Hawke and Edebiri are excellent additions to the cast and prove extremely capable of holding their ground against Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith, while Adèle Exarchopolous also has her moment to shine, floating in and out with quippy one-liners that flavour the scenes with a certain ‘je ne sais quois’. Kensington Tallman, who took the mantle of Riley over from Kaitlyn Dias, is also exceptional and transports adult audience members right back to their awkward teen years effortlessly.

Balancing moments of strife and turmoil with compassion and care, Inside Out 2 follows in its predecessor’s footsteps of entertaining children with bright colours and silly characters, while also tugging at the heartstrings of the big kids. With the addition of Anxiety in particular, Inside Out 2 feels like it’s taking the hands of us millennial-age viewers and telling us that everything is going to be okay.

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