Review: Inside Out 2 (2024)

Inside Out 2 (2024) Inside Out 2 (2024)

A necessarily messy successor to the perfect first instalment, just as much fun, and almost as devastating.

There’s a moment early on in Inside Out 2 where we see Joy and Sadness working together, just as you’d imagine (hope?) they’d learn to after the first Inside Out (2015) – which was, let’s just get this out of the way, a feat of cinematic engineering in animation, imagination, and emotional devastation – and before any of the amazing, hilarious, and powerful moments to come, Inside Out 2 already broke me.

Riley (Kensington Tallman) hits puberty, and in bursts a bunch of new emotions and a host of upheaval. Maya Hawke‘s delirious Anxiety is a stellar addition to Amy Poehler‘s Joy and Phyllis Smith‘s Sadness, and the scene-stealing Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos) rounds out the cast of new emotions which spring up overnight, demolish Riley’s emotional functionality, and jettison her sense of self. I half-expected Inside Out 2 to end with the entrance of Lust or Hormones (à la the Duplo cliffhanger at the end of The Lego Movie). What I didn’t expect, however, was the raucous absurdity of the random characters (and animation styles) in Riley’s Vault. Genius.

One of the myriad interesting and refreshing choices in Inside Out 2 is to make Valentina, Riley’s hockey idol, not mean or even particularly adolescent, but kind and well-adjusted. This allows us to track Riley’s emotions, not as reactions to challenging or even bullying behaviour from an older girl, but purely as changes in own behaviour.

As Inside Out did for childhood emotional development,

there’s so much about the messiness of pubescent headspace that Inside Out 2 captures or at least illustrates beautifully.

It’s perhaps a bit too neat that Anxiety and Joy learn to cooperate so quickly after Anxiety’s first bender – especially when it takes so long, and so many of us never learn to manage it at all – but Inside Out 2 proposes the heartwarming conceit that Anxiety (and all of Riley’s disruptive new emotions) are driven by a desire to protect Riley.

What might Inside Out 3 look like? Given her trajectory in Inside Out 2, Riley would have to either be idealistically well-integrated or disappointingly mundane – and neither of those sounds promising. The end of adolescence is the end of innocence – and innocence is what Inside Out is all about, and which Inside Out 2 deftly, but only just, manages to hold onto. Nostalgia (the character) is teased in this movie – and I wonder what there is in early adulthood to be nostalgic or at least sentimental about in the same way as we are for childhood and even maybe early pubescence. But then, I didn’t think we needed an Inside Out 2, and now I’m so very glad we now have it – so who knows?

Further Viewing

Cinema Therapy visits Pixar Studios to discuss psychology and creative process with Inside Out 2 director Kelsey Mann and producer Mark Nielsen:

Inside Out 2 cinematographers Adam Habib and Jonathan Pytko break down Riley’s Big Anxiety Attack (via Variety):

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