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REVIEW – Disney and Pixar’s ‘Inside Out 2’ Has More Emotions and Even More Laughs

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Pixar is a studio known for making films that look bright and fun, but pack a gut-wrenching emotional punch. In 2015, the studio decided to fully lean into its trademark emotional story-telling with Inside Out, a film about emotions personified. Nobody could have known at that time just how important and resonant that story would be. In the ensuing years, the film has become a critical tool to help kids (and adults) better identify, understand and discuss emotions.

Nearly a decade later, the world is as complex as ever. Given what we’ve all gone through, and continue to go through, in the last few years, learning how to understand and manage our emotions is even more vital. Thus, it’s the perfect time to return to the world of Riley Andersen’s lovable emotions with Inside Out 2.

For the sequel, animation veteran Kelsey Mann takes the helm from Pete Docter, who is now the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar. In our previous interview with Mann and producer Mark Nielsen, Mann shared that recent real-life events solidified their story idea to introduce new emotions in the sequel film, especially Anxiety (voiced by Maya Hawke).

Following a massively impactful and beloved film like Inside Out is an intimidating task, but Anxiety and the group of new emotions that reflect Riley’s entry into puberty add new layers and laughs to the sequel that give it a fresh feel. The result is yet another tear-inducing film with even more laughs that must be shared with loved ones.

Inside Out 2 premieres June 14th in theaters. Tickets are on sale now. Bring tissues.

Inside Out 2 Theatrical Poster © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
Inside Out 2 Theatrical Poster © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Official Synopsis

Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” returns to the mind of newly minted teenager Riley just as Headquarters is undergoing a sudden demolition to make room for something entirely unexpected: new Emotions. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, who’ve long been running a successful operation by all accounts, aren’t sure how to feel when Anxiety, Envy, Ennui and Embarrassment show up. The voice cast includes Amy Poehler, Maya Hawke, Kensington Tallman, Liza Lapira, Tony Hale, Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith, Ayo Edebiri, Lilimar, Grace Lu, Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Paul Walter Hauser and Yvette Nicole Brown.

“Inside Out 2” is directed by Kelsey Mann, produced by Mark Nielsen and executive produced by Pete Docter, Jonas Rivera and Dan Scanlon. The film features a screenplay by Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein and story by Mann and LeFauve. With music by Andrea Datzman, the all-new feature film releases only in theaters June 14, 2024.

THE GOOD

Inside Out ends with a blissfully naive Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) saying, “After all, Riley’s 12 now. What could happen?” Those ominous words lead perfectly into the story of the sequel, which finds Riley at age 13, on the cusp of entering high school and puberty. As many are well aware, with puberty come new and stronger emotions, and Riley is no exception. The original emotional characters of Joy, Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith), Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Fear (voiced this time by Tony Hale) and Disgust (voiced this time by Liza Lapira) find their peaceful balance threatened by a new an unexpected group that includes Envy (voiced by Ayo Edebiri), Embarrassment (voiced by Paul Walter Hauser), Ennui (voiced by Adèle Exarchopoulos), and Anxiety.

The new characters and voice cast are an absolute delight, bringing hilarious new personalities and perspectives. Edebiri’s dimunitive Envy and Walter Hauser’s hulking Embarrassment are two of the very best additions. Edebiri, who has earned wide acclaim and accolades for her performance in FX’s The Bear, brings an endearing earnestness to the emotion that is constantly coveting the recognition of others. Her character design, which just so happens to have a hair-style similar to the one Edebiri currently wears, is sure to be a hit with audiences, with her wide, glimmering eyes (the better to look at what everyone else has around her). Embarrassment doesn’t talk much, but his actions certainly speak louder than his words, and one can’t help but want to give the character big hugs every time he shrinks into his hoodie.

INSIDE OUT 2 - WHO’S IN CHARGE? -- Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” returns to the mind of newly minted teenager Riley, where her Emotions Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale), Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) and Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira) must make room for new Emotions, including Envy (voice of Ayo Edebiri), Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke) and Embarrassment (voice of Paul Walter Hauser). Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen, “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters June 14, 2024. © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
INSIDE OUT 2 – WHO’S IN CHARGE? — Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” returns to the mind of newly minted teenager Riley, where her Emotions Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale), Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) and Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira) must make room for new Emotions, including Envy (voice of Ayo Edebiri), Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke) and Embarrassment (voice of Paul Walter Hauser). Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen, “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters June 14, 2024. © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

With the addition of new and exciting characters, it would have been easy to overlook the original emotions, which is symbolic in and of itself. Thankfully, most of them aren’t given short shrift, and instead bring some much appreciated familiarity to the story. Anger’s crankiness and Joy’s enthusiasm are on full display, and the characters have an enjoyable rapport that has grown from the first film. The new cast of Tony Hale and Liza Lapira, replacing Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling respectively, fill their roles admirably. The differences will be noticeable to discerning fans, but not so much that it ruins the experience.

Smith’s Sadness and Hawke’s Anxiety are the standouts among the well-rounded cast of characters. Smith returns with a lovable subtlety that provides a welcome respite from the frenetic events and characters around her. Inside Out 2 is a fast-paced film with a very tight 100 minute runtime. Most of it feels like an amusement park thrill ride, but the moments with Sadness, much like the impact of the emotion, ground the story and audience.

Hawke is the ideal voice for Anxiety, whose hilariously disheveled character design is the perfect representation of the emotion that has become one of the biggest social talking points. Hawke voices Anxiety with a relatable determination and does a wonderful job of changing her pitch and tone to match the wild swings that come when the feeling loses control.

BELIEF SYSTEM – In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Riley’s Sense of Self is made up of all of her beliefs, each of which can be heard with the pluck of a string. Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) and Joy (voice of Amy Poehler) deliver key memories to this formative land. “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters June 14, 2024. © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
BELIEF SYSTEM – In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Riley’s Sense of Self is made up of all of her beliefs, each of which can be heard with the pluck of a string. Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) and Joy (voice of Amy Poehler) deliver key memories to this formative land. “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters June 14, 2024. © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

It’s important to note that Anxiety is not the villain of the story, but its antagonist. The distinction is an important one, and those who truly learned the lessons of the first film will know how this one must be resolved; the beauty of course is in the journey. Mann and his team do a masterful job of representing the delicate layers that come with all emotions, and showing both the value of properly channeled emotions and the dangers of allowing emotions to overwhelm.

In addition to the much appreciated nuance with which the film handles the emotional battle of puberty, it’s also full of laughs. There are numerous laugh-out-loud moments and the story is full fun symbolism; the way sarcasm is presented in the story is simply genius.

There is a particular scene with a few unexpected characters, led by Ron Funches, that is sure to be one of the most talked about moments of the film. Viewers who are familiar with Disney’s young children’s programming are in for a particular treat.

Ultimately, Inside Out 2 is an excellent expansion of the first film and tells a story that genuinely resonates with audiences across age groups. The term “all ages” is overused, but this is the rare film that can actually connect different generations of viewers. On a personal level, as a father with a pre-teen daughter, Inside Out 2 spoke to both of us and will be a reference point for many conversations in the coming years. We both learned a lot, and laughed while doing so, and that’s why these kinds of stories matter.

INSIDE OUT 2 - FEELING ENVY – In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Envy may be small, but she sure knows what she wants. She’s perpetually jealous of everything everyone else has, and she’s not afraid to pine over it. Envy’s wishful thinking and fascination with the newest, coolest thing pulls her attention in all directions and longs for what Riley doesn’t have. Featuring Ayo Edebiri as the voice of Envy, “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters June 14, 2024. © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
INSIDE OUT 2 – FEELING ENVY – In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Envy may be small, but she sure knows what she wants. She’s perpetually jealous of everything everyone else has, and she’s not afraid to pine over it. Envy’s wishful thinking and fascination with the newest, coolest thing pulls her attention in all directions and longs for what Riley doesn’t have. Featuring Ayo Edebiri as the voice of Envy, “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters June 14, 2024. © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

THE BAD

At 100 minutes, Inside Out 2 flies by. In the era of over-indulgent films that can’t be completed without a bathroom break, this film is a welcome exception. However, the runtime doesn’t allow for as much development as one might hope for in a story that not only includes nine emotion characters, but also introduces several new human characters into Riley’s life. 13-year-old Riley (voiced by Kensington Tallman) has two best friends, Grace (voiced by Grace Lu) and Bree (voiced by Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green). She’s aspiring to impress the high school hockey team led by captain Val Ortiz (voiced by Lilimar) and Coach Roberts (Yvette Nicole Brown). The wealth of new and interesting characters is enough to tell an Oppenheimer length story.

While Mann is still able to give all of the main characters their spotlights, inevitably, some must take a back seat. This time, Fear is used sparingly, which is disappointing considering Hale’s considerable talents. Fear’s diminishment might be predictable given the emotion’s proximity to anxiety, but the film missed the opportunity to more fully explain the unique elements of each. There are hints that the two have a connection that will be explored in the future, and one can’t help but wonder about the potential for an Inside Out series on Disney+.

Another product of the robust cast of characters and the runtime is that some of the plot points are too quickly introduced and resolved. Blink and you might miss the motivation behind some of Embarrassment’s actions.

THE POC-Y

The Andersen’s are presented as a stereotypical white family from Minnesota. In the first film, they moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, which is one of the most diverse regions in the United States. This time, we see that beautiful diversity on display around Riley and her family. Her best friends are Asian and Black, the hockey team she aspires to join is full of diverse players and is led by a Latina team captain and Black head coach. All of these decisions are intentional and reflect the true world around us.

While the visual diversity around Riley is great to see, and those new characters add more diversity to the voice cast, there is certainly ample room for improvement in both the main cast and the creative team. Pixar has a strong recent track record of diversity in its story-telling, with films like Soul, Turning Red and Elemental, so one can only hope that the trend will continue going forward.

THE RATING – 4.5 Pocky

Pocky Rating 4.5
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Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture.  He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.

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