HomeMovies'Inside Out 2' Review: The Perfect Sequel for These Tension-Filled Times

‘Inside Out 2’ Review: The Perfect Sequel for These Tension-Filled Times

Photo Credit: Pixar/Walt Disney Studios

Even nearly a decade after the original film’s release, Pixar’s Inside Out continues to be one of the studio’s best and most beloved stories — which is why fans have been desperately wanting a sequel for years. Now, Pixar grants that wish with a follow-up that digs deeper into the ideas, emotions, and characters that audiences fell in love with. 

Set roughly a year after the events of the first film, Inside Out 2 catches fans up with Riley (voiced by Kensington Tallman), who is now thirteen and heading to hockey camp with her friends. As for her emotions, well, not much has changed. Joy (Amy Poehler) is still gleefully running the show, but she now has a better relationship with Sadness (Phyllis Smith). However, both Riley and her emotions are about to go through huge changes as puberty rears its head. Suddenly, Anxiety (Maya Hawke) arrives with other new emotions and quickly takes over, sending Joy and her fellow emotions to the back of Riley’s mind. Now, Joy must regain control before Anxiety sends Riley into a downward spiral as she faces new social obstacles and dynamics. 

Inside Out 2 immediately reconnects viewers with its characters by establishing itself as a second chapter in Riley’s story. To some degree, it’s surprising how little has changed and it’s almost like you’re watching a true continuation of the first film. Now, in some ways, this can make the film seem weaker on certain fronts—or at least less ambitious. With Inside Out 2, it’s hard to know what its lasting impression will be because it doesn’t really outdo its predecessor in any way.

In terms of animation, it pretty much looks the same as the first film and doesn’t take much of a visual leap compared to other recent Pixar offerings. The story is relatively basic and doesn’t delve much deeper into the different facets of Riley’s mind. Plus, it’s hard to say that the film would play well to a younger (below 10) audience since it doesn’t really showcase themes and situations that closely fit them. It’s more for either kids around Riley’s age or parents still feeling the same emotions from those formative years. So, Inside Out 2 isn’t a true step-up from the first film and it’s debatable if it’s even better. 

However, Inside Out 2 is maybe the sequel we need, since it focuses more on evolving the accomplishments and depth of its predecessor. While the sequel isn’t the visual leap for Pixar that Soul and Lightyear were, it mixes in new colors to create a genuine feast for the eyes. With the varying colors constantly influencing the themes and messaging, the film’s visual palette elevates the storytelling and sense of awe. It’s seriously impressive how Pixar continues to create visuals that are amazing to look at and play a big role in the storytelling. But, it’s even more exciting to see them take on new animation styles. Early on, the group encounters characters in Riley’s mind that are vastly different—including a 2-D Dora the Explorer knockoff and an old crush of Riley’s from a PS1-era video game. It’s great to see the studio switch things up and it makes you hope that maybe, just maybe, Pixar could consider doing a 2-D animated film. 

It’s also great to have most of the original voice cast back – although Bill Hader (Fear) and Mindy Kaling (Disgust) are definitely missed. Poehler does a great job bringing a stronger emotional range to Joy and works excellently with some of the meatier material she’s given. Joy is shown to be more than one note in Inside Out 2 and the film emphasizes why she’s truly the heart of who Riley is by giving her similarly cathartic arcs. Smith’s performance as Sadness also shines again for the great humor she brings and the likeable heroics she’s forced to do; she’s no longer just a comedic buzzkill. Frankly, it’s just great that the entire group comes along for the adventure this time and watching their personalities collide is pure hilarity. 

As for the new emotions, they add their own importance, funniness, and style to the experience, but Anxiety is characterized flawlessly. Pixar expertly crafts a depiction of anxiety that’s deeply real, relatable and complex. The way Anxiety acts as a false sense of safety for Riley is genuinely compelling and there are some story turns that’ll hit viewers right in the heart. There’s also this big buildup within Anxiety that leads to a legitimately gripping finale, with visuals that capture the tension of the moment and show anxiety at its worst. It’s actually scary at times to see how much, well, anxiety she brings to viewers and it’s a testament to how well Pixar nails this character. Plus, Hawke is just awesome in the role and adds to the uneasiness and irresistible likability of the character. Anxiety is the true star of Inside Out 2 and she might be one of Pixar’s most captivating characters to date. 

With all these great elements in place, Pixar crafts a great dual narrative that evokes the humor, heartache, and heartwarming nature of their adventures. There might not be as many laughs in Inside Out 2 compared to the first film, but it’s definitely a quality over quantity approach. When the funny moments do come, they’re effectively timed and deliver gut-busting laughs that everyone will love. Pixar masters great cutaway jokes and there are some hilarious line-deliveries that’ll leave viewers in stitches.

More importantly, though, Inside Out 2 delivers a more balanced narrative that connects with viewers in every moment and continually pours out emotion. Overall, it feels like everyone shares the spotlight equally and the shifting perspectives between what’s happening with Riley, Anxiety, and Joy are incredibly smooth. Thus, when they deal with hardships and touch on what’s important for Riley, they have shared emotions that connect all the plot threads together excellently. Not to mention, Riley’s story here is quintessential puberty drama that really nails all the awkwardness, fear, joy, and anxiety that come with growing up. It’s another universal tale about humanity that playfully explores different quirks we all have and offers reflective arcs that’ll leave you misty-eyed and mended.

Inside Out 2 is another offering of food for the soul from Pixar and while the sequel may not be game-changing for the studio, it is exactly what fans are looking for — especially in these more tension-filled times. It’s easily one of their best sequels to date and acts as a great reunion with some of Pixar’s best work. 

Inside Out 2 is now playing in theaters.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.
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