Inside Out 2 (dir. Kelsey Mann)

By: Adam Freed

The book of Ecclesiastes famously encourages children to, “Rejoice…in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth.”  This optimistic advice feels far easier said than done considering the level of emotional complexity facing kids in the 21st century.  The list of social and emotional pitfalls feels endless to most junior high school students and the introduction of social media into the already precarious equation is about enough to make any 13 year old go nuclear.  It is at this precarious emotional crisis point that Disney and Pixar choose to plant their flag with the triumphant and insightful Inside Out 2.  Taking to heart the adage that “nothing easy is worth doing” Inside Out 2 humorously flattens the wrinkled fabric of complex sensations presented by puberty and presents audiences with permission to embrace the gamut of one’s emotions.         

Nearly a decade after Inside Out (2015) became a Pixar smash hit, the sequel brings back budding hockey star Riley along with her brilliant cast of emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale), Disgust (Liza Lapira) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith).  Rarely does a sequel’s freshness come in the form of concept, rather Inside Out 2 wisely broadens the breadth and depth of Riley’s emotions, as will happen as children morph into young adults.  Most notable of the newly discovered feelings is Anxiety, voiced superbly by Maya Hawke, who very quickly assumes command of the 13-year-old’s emotional control center.  As a result, there are numerous moments throughout the film that will catch tweens and parents unknowingly nodding in agreement.  

By allowing Riley’s emotional complexity to expand and deepen, what was originally a children’s story has evolved into a far more insightful and meaningful tool to guide families through some of the seemingly impossible circumstances that life can present.  Inside Out 2 weaponizes full bodied humor just like its predecessor, but now opens doors to conversations that can be far more meaningful and lasting.  At the midpoint of the 2024 film calendar, Disney Pixar is already the leader in the clubhouse for best animated feature, and more importantly, may have just found a way for teens to “rejoice in thy youth,” even in the midst of some potentially difficult days.

Target Score: 9/10   Inside Out 2 is easily Pixar’s best sequel since Toy Story 3(2010).  Kelsey Mann’s film is memorably funny but unleashes its superpower as it vividly illustrates emotional transition and expansion.  Audiences young and old are likely to walk away loving Inside Out 2 for two completely different sets of reasons.