Inside Out 2 – Review

Inside Out 2Almost a decade after Inside Out made cinema goers connect with their feelings, Disney Pixar has released a sequel. Marking the directorial debut of Kelsey Mann, the film picks up just a few years after its predecessor, as Riley gets ready for high school – and all the emotional changes that will bring.

Meg LeFauve, who wrote the first film, teams up with co-writer David Holstein to explore brand new emotions in addition to the five we are familiar with from the first film. Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale) and Disgust (Liza Lapira), suddenly find themselves edged out as Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Envy (Ayo Edebiri) and Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos) barge in and take control of Riley’s mind as she hits puberty.

Inside Out 2 loses none of its charm for seeing the five primary feelings off on a side quest. Their task is to restore Riley (voiced by Kensington Tallman) and her sense of self as she navigates a summer hockey camp, finding out her two best friends are going to a different high school and a whole raft of other overwhelming teenage experiences. For younger viewers, these situations might seem years away but, for the adults in the audience, it’s a very familiar experience.

The animation is as gorgeous as it was in the first film. When Joy finally convinces Sadness to come down to place memories into the belief system, it’s like walking into an enchanted forest. Everything is sparkly and colourful; making you want to gaze upwards and exhale a cathartic “wow!”. The side quest into Riley’s mind shows a stream of consciousness dominated by pizza and boybands; her core memories filed away and stacked as far as the edge of the screen. The sight of Anxiety quite literally spiralling is also a very accurate depiction of what it feels like to be in the grip of a panic attack. It’s a striking visual that stands out for all the right reasons.

The humour is still there, too. When Riley is taken over by Ennui, a “Sar-Chasm” opens up in her mind, which is a fantastically well-written joke. Adèle Exarchopoulos’ voice work, combined with the visuals of her character are hysterical. The occasional pop up appearances of Nostalgia (voiced by June Squibb) are as adorable as they are funny. The insights into Riley’s parents’ minds are equally funny. Mum (Diane Lane) is full of panic and recalling her own teenage angst whilst Dad (Kyle Maclaclan) is keen to “go back to sports”. There are also a couple of end credits scenes that are worth sticking around for if you need one final chuckle.

At the heart of it all, of course, is some rather grown up messaging. “Maybe as you get older, you just feel less joy,” Joy moots, in a line that is sure to gut punch the adult audience.  Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust don’t like the way Anxiety is dominating Riley’s core belief system. Its presence changes Riley’s inner voice from “I’m a good person” to “I’m not good enough”, changing the way she plays hockey, interacts with her peers and imagines hundreds of different possible outcomes for certain scenarios. It’s a very accurate depiction of the way it can dominate a person’s life, causing irrational behaviours and intrusive thoughts. We Inside Out 2also see Riley in the grip of a panic attack, clutching her heart and struggling to breathe. It shouldn’t feel brave to show this on screen in a kids film but it somehow does. It could even normalise conversations around what anxiety is and how it can impact you. Maya Hawke voices the antagonist (if you can call it that) beautifully – at first all toothy smiles and wringing hands before becoming more frantic, unreasonable and dominant.

Inside Out 2 is a superbly animated film that has plenty to keep viewers of all ages entertained. The messaging – although gentle – is never twee or cliched. The voice acting is extremely well done and the visuals are as striking as they were the first time around. It certainly packs the same emotional punch as its predecessor without ever losing its sense of playfulness or joy. (Something we could all learn from, surely.)

Inside Out 2 is now screening in UK cinemas.

Mary Munoz
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