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Inside Out 2 (2024) Spoiler-Free Movie Review: Conquering Anxiety

Poster for "Inside Out 2"
Sean Fang Thu, 13/06/2024 - 05:00


Summary: Charming, clever and heartfelt, Inside Out 2 is a worthy sequel to the groundbreaking original. While lacking some of the emotional punch of the original, it offers more in other areas - a return to form for Pixar.

It's been a few hard years for Pixar. The pandemic and some of its films being released without a theatrical window didn't help, but even the kindest critic would have to admit that the quality of their output has been subpar. Pixar's next film following the box office disappointment of "Elemental" (download 4K trailer) was supposed to be the original film "Elio" (download 4K teaser), but then the Hollywood strikes struck, forcing Disney to delay it until 2025. This then made "Inside Out 2" Pixar's next film, and probably its most important release yet as it sought a win to break its losing streak.

Still from Inside Out 2 - Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Lewis Black as Anger, Tony Hale as Fear, and Liza Lapira as Disgust

I'm delighted to say that, while I don't know what will happen at the box office, Pixar is definitely back in terms of storytelling, inventiveness, and unrivalled charm.

The story follows the slightly grown-up Riley, now a teenager, dealing with all the pressures that age brings, including the pressures of fitting in, of trying to find out who you are, and of course the big one, puberty. As such, the basic emotions in Riley's mind, Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness, are no longer enough to account for everything Riley is going through. We are then introduced to new emotions, Envy, Embarrassment, Ennui, and the big one, Anxiety. Also new is the concept of self, where Riley's important memories and beliefs are combined in a visually stunning way to form the core of Riley's personality. But when Anxiety starts taking over, Riley, and her basic emotions, must fight to regain control.

Still from Inside Out 2 - Maya Hawk as Anxiety

Before watching this delightful sequel, I had some trepidation that these new emotions, and the new concepts, would be too overwhelming. I was also worried that the new emotions would overlap with the existing basic emotions (for example, anxiety and fear do share a lot in common). Luckily, the super clever people at Pixar have done an excellent job at explaining the new emotions and concepts in the way that only they, and the Inside Out film series, can. The added complexity is also very much necessary to deal with Riley's more complex thought processes, and it also makes Inside Out 2 a fuller film as a result.

This isn't the only area in which Inside Out 2 improves upon the first film as a result. With less need for exposition, we get right into the action and the film maintains a steady and exciting pace throughout. There's also room for more humour, and the audience I watched the special preview with laughed out loud frequently all through the film.

The one thing Inside Out 2 lacks compared to the original is perhaps the emotional gut-punch of the "Take her to the moon for me" scene and the rawness of the final reconciliation scene. That's not to say that Inside Out 2 isn't a heartfelt, emotional film, but as the first film was focussed on dealing with sadness, and this one is about tackling anxiety, it makes perfect sense for the first film to have those scenes, and for this film to not need them.

Still from Inside Out 2 - Maya Hawk as Anxiety, Ayo Edebiri as Envy, and Paul Walter Hauser as Embarrassment

As with all of Pixar's work, even the ones that didn't work, the animation is pristine and inventive, and the score is moving while remaining familiar. The new side characters introduced are also interesting, and very funny. I'm also happy to report there's very little sequel-itis present, where the film rehashes old jokes and characters from the first film for the sake of nostalgia (speaking of which, there's a very funny cameo of this very emotion voiced by June Squibb), and this film remains very much a necessary chapter, as opposed to just another cash grab.

In fact, when the film finishes, it makes you impatiently yearn for a third chapter in this series and that's probably the best compliment you can give to this film.

"Inside Out 2" is in cinemas 13 June 2024. Streaming release date: TBC.