Inside Out 2 delivers Pixar’s best sequel to date

It’s been ten years since Pixar delivered the masterpiece Inside Out. An exploration into the mind of a child and the emotions that are the driving force behind it. Since that movie was released in 2014, some would argue that Pixar’s quality has declined with recent “flops” like Lightyear and the less-than-stellar box office and mixed critical reception of last year’s Elemental, Pixar’s next original film Elio was delayed and Inside Out 2 was announced for release this year. A now teenage Riley (now voiced by Kensington Tallman) has started puberty and a whole bunch of new emotions have been added to the mix to help guide her through. The film brings back the Pixar magic that mixes comedy with heart-string-pulling emotion that made the company so successful in its earlier years. 

Inside Out 2 picks up exactly where we left off in the previous film. Riley’s puberty alarm is going off and the emotions in her head including Joy (Amy Pohler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (now voiced by Tony Hale) and Disgust (now voiced by Liza Lapira). As the alarm continues to sound, a wrecking crew arrive to headquarters and starts smashing everything apart and replacing the emotions console with an upgraded version as some new emotions arrive, ready to help Riley navigate puberty. Along for the ride is Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) As the new emotions struggle to get along with the old ones, another adventure led by the still headstrong Joy across Riley’s mind ensues. 

In stark contrast to the previous film, the story spends much more time with Riley outside of her mind as she heads off to hockey camp with her two best friends, Grace (Grace Lu) and Bree (Summayah Nuriddin Green). Riley becomes obsessed with the hockey team captain, The Hawkes, and compromises her sense of self to achieve her goal. The two groups of emotions battle it out to keep Riley’s sense of self, which is manifested here by a lake in which her ideas are planted and grow into strands, forming a small tree. 

Like any other Pixar film, visually, they continue to set the standard for animated films with humans and emotions looking colourful and truly spectacular on the big screen. The new emotions are well-animated and look noticeably different from the originals from the last film. This series has always had a beautiful way of playing with light and colour and this has been dialled up several notches in this sequel. 

Where the film does fall down is the middle. It starts off spectacularly, mixing Riley and her friends with the Emotions inside her head. When Joy and her friends are trapped and forced to explore Riley’s mind again to make it back to HQ, it, unfortunately, suffers from sequelitis. We take the same trip through Imagination Land, the shortcut through abstract art with the same beats from the first film. There is still some new ground to be tread here with the hilarious Sar-Chasm sequence that really brings the laughs. Another disappointment was how this film deals with puberty itself. Pixar’s previous film Turning Red did a spectacular job of exploring this and was not afraid to dive into the heavier themes that come with this. This film seems to steer clear of any controversial topics, no doubt to appease the other side of politics who have turned against the House of Mouse lately. The other elephant in the room is the replacement of Hader and Kaling as Fear and Disgust. While they were definitely not as prominent in the first film, Disgust in particular, had a distinct voice and tone that just didn’t translate well in this sequel. Not to mention the fact that both these actors now have a high profile since the first film and could easily have drawn in their fanbase to see this film. 

By the end of the film when the Emotions realise that they can’t keep making decisions about who Riley is and no matter how many bad memories they try and hide or how much they manipulate the core tree, Riley ultimately needs to make her own decisions in life and decide who she wants to be. It feels a little that Pixar itself as a studio is also in this predicament. The pandemic made their parent company Disney force them to shelve their cinematic releases to Disney + at no extra cost with three incredible films Soul, Luca and Finding Red all relished to streaming services, rather than being pushed back and released when the pandemic restrictions were lifted. Elemental was the film that wasn’t their usual quality, but did move to Disney + quickly after failing to ignite much interest at the box office. 

Fortunately Inside Out has garnered enough fans over the last 10 years to ensure that it can find an audience at this year’s summer blockbuster box office. While other studios entries are failing to land a hit, if anyone can turn things around, it is Pixar. The studio’s previous sequels have not been able to land like the originals (with the exception of the Toy Story series) it seems they may have learned from this, as Inside Out 2 sticks to a formula that works, all while doing its best to explore the next phase of Riley’s journey into adulthood. 

Inside Out 2 is showing in cinemas now. 

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It’s been ten years since Pixar delivered the masterpiece Inside Out. An exploration into the mind of a child and the emotions that are the driving force behind it. Since that movie was released in 2014, some would argue that Pixar’s quality has declined...Inside Out 2 delivers Pixar's best sequel to date