Movie review: Laughs and lessons abound in Pixar's Inside Out 2

15 Jun 2024

It’s the moodiest movie of the summer, and it’s going to put you in a great mood - Inside Out 2 is a must-see film for all ages

Inside Out 2 - Figure 1

There’s a strong chance that Pixar’s Inside Out 2 will be the funniest psychology lesson and therapy session you’ve ever been a part of. It’s the moodiest movie of the summer, and it’s going to put you in a great mood.

Brimming with pioneering animation, a dedicated voice cast and an intelligent, heartfelt script, Inside Out 2’s success is truly surprising given that more than half of the original creative team is different from the first film.

Finding a brand consistency and natural character arc is a difficult thing to do, especially when you have new lead creatives and several new cast members. Thankfully, returning screenwriter Meg LeFauve (Oscar nominated for writing the first movie) is the anchor that helps gives vision and creativity to the world of Riley’s mind.

The first Inside Out was a massive hit back in 2015, following the key emotions in the mind of a ten-year-old girl named Riley, spearheaded by Joy (Amy Poehler) as she tries to wrangle her other emotions and help them work together. 

That film, still beloved for its humour and easy-to-understand profundity truly for all ages, grossed $850M and won the Oscar for Best Animated film. So where do you go from there? According to new director Kelsey Mann, that means Riley gets new emotions as she becomes - brace yourselves - a teenager.

Unlike the original, Inside Out 2 is set across a more intimate, three-day episode with now thirteen-year-old-Riley: she’s getting ready to go to high school, and has been invited to a teen girls’ hockey training camp for the weekend with her friends. 

But of course, that happens the same day new emotions move into headquarters (get it?), and soon Joy is fighting Anxiety (a scene-stealing Maya Hawke) for control of Riley, her beliefs, and her sense of self.

Children, adults, seniors, and everyone really will all find great entertainment value in the adventure story of Riley’s emotions travelling through Riley’s head to save her from spiralling out of control. Watching the connections between the mind world and Riley awkward teenage antics in the real world are both smart and hilarious, with a healthy dose of second hand embarrassment.

Inside Out 2’s genius element is LeFauve’s story (conceived with new director Mann) is a rich plot that also finds an artful way of explaining the connections and purpose of a person’s complex emotions. 

The well intentioned Anxiety, for example, explains she helps Riley prepare for the future. Her justification is true, until Riley’s worry moves from wise to unhealthy. That kind of balance makes Anxiety a great antagonist without needing to be villainous; all Riley’s emotions really do want to help - they just can’t agree on how.

What keeps the audience emotionally invested is that the stakes of Riley’s real world keep getting bigger and more significant. Will she make the team? Will she lose her old friends at the cost of new ones? Can she hold to her code of ethics?

Those aren’t just turning points in mental health and personal growth for teenagers. Finding ways to strengthen conflict is the hallmark of all great stories, and that’s why both Inside Out movies are so compelling.

If there’s one small disappointment, it’s that the sequel is missing the joy of discovery in how Riley’s mind works and can change. The whole premise was revolutionary in the first film, and this episode feels a bit more comfortable because there’s a strong, lingering hope that Joy is going to pull through and save the day.

Don’t fret, however, this could be compared to Monsters University or Incredibles 2 or Cars 2 as a notable step down - Pixar has found a terrific second story for Joy and Riley that absolutely justifies it’s existence. This is on par with the Toy Story sequels in craftsmanship and enjoyability.

One final note: because the whole story is focused on a high school hockey camp, Pixar has also accidentally made a great sports movie. Several fast-paced game and training scenes qualify this as, no kidding, one of the best hockey movies ever made. It’s especially great too seeing the diversity of girls all connecting and bonding over hockey, which is progressive in its own right.

Inside Out 2 isn’t just the best family film of the year, it’s one of the best movies of the year period, and can’t miss e-motion picture of the summer.

Inside Out 2 9 out of 10

Rated G, 1hr 36mins. Animated Family Comedy Adventure.

Directed by Kelsey Mann.

Starring Amy Poehler, Maya Hawke, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Tony Hale, Liza Lapira, Ayo Edebri and Kensington Tallman.

Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, 5 Drive-In, Cineplex Winston Churchill & VIP and Cineplex Oakville & VIP. Also in IMAX.

Read more
Similar news
This week's most popular news