Inside Out 2 Review

Inside Out 2 Review

Inside Out 2 aims to be the most universal Pixar movie in years, with it boosted by a strong first act and a solid storyline.

PLOT: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust have been doing a good job managing the emotions of their beloved human, Riley. But, as she enters her teenage years, they have their hands full dealing with a whole new slate of emotions, including the obstructive, controlling Anxiety.

REVIEW: Ever since the pandemic, Pixar’s been struggling to recapture the zeitgeist its animated films were once so easily able to dominate. For a long time, it was almost uncanny how each film was hailed as a masterpiece, only for the company to fall off when suddenly their films became more commonly viewed via streaming than in theatres. Some say the movies got to be too specific, although for me I’d take a highly personal story like Elemental over the more generic Lightyear any day. At any rate, the company is said to be undergoing a pivot towards more universal stories, although that could mean more and more sequels, something Pixar’s had mixed results with. Toy Story 3 was brilliant, but the 4th was an unnecessary epilogue. The Incredibles 2 was…fine, but Finding Dory was a smash. So, how does Inside Out 2 fare?

Once again, the movie is a mixed bag. While the original is rightly acclaimed as one of Pixar’s masterpieces, the follow-up, while often amusing and occasionally touching, feels less envelope-pushing than other movies they made. The movie’s hook is pretty good, showing us how Riley’s emotions have to deal with the onslaught of puberty and new emotions such as ennui, envy, and, most dangerous of all, anxiety.

Anyone who’s lived a life with any stress can tell you that anxiety is a monkey many of us can never fully get off our backs; with the movie treating it as an emotion the protagonist, Joy, has to overcome and put back in her place. Yet, the movie can’t help but have a simplistic view of the place each emotion has within us, and it fails to acknowledge the fact that anxiety, at times, is an engine we need to push us forward. Making Joy the hero and Anxiety the bad guy lacks the nuance we’ve seen in other Pixar movies – including the first Inside Out.

inside out 2 review

However, that aspect will only really matter to those of us who spend an unhealthy amount of time overanalyzing our emotions (will Inside Out 3 introduce Introspection as a character?). Kids will likely have more fun watching Inside Out 2 than they have at any other Pixar movie in a long time, with it colourful and filled with engaging voice performances.

However, even the voice casting comes with a bit of controversy. Bill Hader, who voiced Fear in the first film, and Mindy Kaling, who voiced Disgust, aren’t back for the sequel, with them replaced by Tony Hale and Liza Lapira. Both are solid replacements, but their absence can’t help but be felt, and one wonders why they didn’t return. Amy Poehler takes center stage as Joy, who finds her role usurped by anxiety and is voiced (terrifically) by Maya Hawke in a piece of pitch-perfect casting. This is her movie, with her and Poehler playing tug-of-war over Riley’s personality once she gets invited to an important hockey training weekend that could define her high school experience.

Other additions include an appropriately pithy Adèle Exarchopoulos as Ennui (of course, Ennui is French), Paul Walter Hauser (this guy is everywhere) as Embarrassment, and the under-used Ayo Edebiri as Envy. Compared to Elemental, the animation this time seems to be less about pushing the envelope than in the previous films, but there’s a pretty dazzling sequence where some of the emotions are banished to a suppressed part of Riley’s personality. There they meet 2D-animated pre-K style animated characters and deliberately pixelated video game character, all of which gives the movie some much-needed visual pop.

Inside Out 2 feels like a movie that has a better chance of being embraced by a large-scale audience than anything they’ve done in recent years. Still, it also feels like a movie that was made of necessity (for the big box office) rather than the ambition that made other Pixar movies classics. It’s a good Pixar movie, but it’s not a great one. 

For more Inside Out 2, check out our Pixar tour promoting the sequel we did this spring HERE!

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