Inside Out 2 Review

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It was announced recently that Pixar would be doubling down on sequels. One can only hope Pixar will eventually regain its reputation as the poster child for original storytelling. That said, for every Cars 2, there’s a story worth continuing. It’s likely not a coincidence that the most successful Pixar sequels center on growing up. The Toy Story trilogy matured with Andy while the fourth film still took the franchise to deep places. Inside Out is another IP that lends itself to further installments. For all the emotional baggage we sorted through in the first film, we’ve only scratched the surface of Riley’s developing mind.

Inside Out 2 doesn’t surpass its predecessor, but it does progress these characters to the next logical stepping stone. It does so with boundless wit, visual inventiveness, and simple characters containing layers of complexity. Puberty hits young Riley like a literal wrecking ball, making way for angstier emotions. Ayo Edebiri’s Envy and Adèle Exarchopoulos’ Ennui are welcome additions, although Paul Walter Hauser feels underutilized as the practical silent Embarrassment in what must’ve been his easiest paycheck. Maya Hawke, meanwhile, shines as Anxiety, who takes control during a pivotal turning point in Riley’s life with the other five central emotions locked away.

The previous film was primarily a buddy comedy between Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). Like Toy Story 2, Inside Out 2 is more of an ensemble piece. Replacing Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader, Liza Lapira and Tony Hale seamlessly slip into the roles of Disgust and Fear while still bringing unique touches. Lewis Black once again perfectly embodies Anger while Poehler continues to bring the smiles. Although Sadness was the standout in the first film, she gets sidelined here. The film compensates with fresh dynamics and memorable new characters. A trip to Ridley’s vault of repression leads to some especially hilarious introductions.

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At times, Inside Out 2 runs the risk of repeating its predecessor. Just as Joy and Sadness learned to co-exist, it goes without saying that the new and old emotions will have to adapt. For all the familiar beats, director Kelsey Mann and her team explore uncharted territory. Anxiety is more antagonistic than Sadness, but nobody here is a straight-up villain. Without anyone to rein her in, an anxiety attack is inevitable. Like everyone else, though, Anxiety has Riley’s best interests at heart and can serve a necessary purpose. The story goes beyond accepting Anxiety, however.

Inside Out 2 is about how Riley views herself. With friendships tested and her future unsure, Riley faces an internal war. One side emphasizes her best traits while the other stresses about everything negative. The truth is that nobody’s perfect, and while it’s important to maintain a positive view of yourself, owning up to your mistakes and accepting certain blemishes are just as integral. The road to this message is another emotional journey, even if you might not be crying your eyes out like in the last film. While Inside Out set the bar impossibly high, this is among the most wonderful and warranted sequels that Pixar has ever made. Hopefully, Pixar has more originality in the pipeline, but if any franchise is going to continue, Inside Out 3 may show the most promise.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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