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Inside Out 2 (Film Review)

3 min read


No film encompasses the spirit of Pixar more than Inside Out, a conceptually, thematically and visually nuanced story that makes the tenets of humanity accessible with its sharp use of humour and emotion. The film handled its observations on emotional reconciliation so deftly that it’s hard to imagine what else is left to say on the subject and after a somewhat divisive few years for the studio as well, Inside Out 2 comes with a lot to prove. Thankfully, the long-awaited sequel not only deepens the complexities of the first film, but it’s also a great reminder of why audiences fell in love with Pixar in the first place.

Picking up a couple of years after the first film, Riley (Kensington Tallman) is now a freshman — the principles of kindness that Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and the other emotions instilled in her still holding strong. After her hockey team wins the local championship, she is invited to a hockey camp to see if she has what it takes to be the high school’s next prodigy. But her weekend away brings about self-doubt, change and a handful of new emotions intent on taking over led by Anxiety (Maya Hawke).

Our cognitive processes, naturally, evolve with age and the way the film visualises all of that through the addition of new emotions is as ingeniously designed as the first was in cultivating subtext through its visual language. The script recycles a lot of beats from 2015’s Inside Out — set over 2-3 days; emotions needing to desperately return to Headquarters; Joy being forced to confront her place in Riley’s life — but the script is woven with new intricacies that add a lot of depth to the familiarity and keeps the concept feeling fresh and unique.

Navigating adolescence can often feel like a singular experience but the way Inside Out 2 makes the anxiety, envy, and embarrassment of growing up so relatable is a testament to just how well the filmmakers understand this world. Finding a sense of self is complicated and the film brilliantly positions audiences to use Riley as a way of confronting their own emotional identity and the results are deeply moving.

Every time the film feels like it’s out of tricks, it eschews expectation to throw a comedic or emotional curveball at the audience. The jokes flow thick and fast, once again smartly playing into psychology puns, and the film seamlessly juggles its burgeoning ensemble and ideas to give everyone their due. The big sweeping emotional statements also work thanks to how subliminally the thematic values are realised with razor-sharp writing toeing the line between villainising characters and showing us the innate need for them expertly — everything has a consequence but not every consequence is bad.

If Inside Out was about one’s relationship with emotion then Inside Out 2 is one’s relationship with their sense of self and who they are. It’s a messy, difficult process and the way that director Kelsey Mann and the animators take all of this trauma and visualise it is just as ingenious, emotional and astutely observed as its predecessor… if not more so. It’s the rare sequel that harkens back to what made the original so special while finding new ways to evolve those beliefs and ingenuities and deem its existence necessary; Pixar haven’t been this mature or this good in years and Inside Out 2 is a joyous return to form.

Inside Out 2 releases in UK cinemas June 14.