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Featured Review

Inside Out 2 ★★★★



Released: 14 June 2024

Director: Kelsey Mann

Starring: Amy Poehler, Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri

The 2020s have been patchy for Pixar. A disruption to cinema-going wrought by the pandemic, coupled with Disney’s streamer-first strategy saw films such as Luca, Soul and Turning Red fail to make an impact, even with somewhat favourable reviews. 2022’s Lightyear was an unmitigated disaster, both creatively and financially, and last year’s summer tentpole release Elemental was an okay film met with muted response. This trend appeared to confirm that Pixar had lost its storytelling prowess and ability to get audiences to show up in the first place. The response? A release slate dedicated to revisiting their biggest hits. Moana 2 arriving this November, while Toy Story 5 is in the works. First up on the sequel tour conveyor belt, however, is Inside Out 2. 

With its simple, yet impressively imaginative premise, 2015’s Inside Out brought to life the emotions inside the mind of 11-year-old Riley, charting her struggle to adapt to moving from Minnesota to San Francisco. Its follow-up, helmed by Kelsey Mann, returns to a 13-year-old Riley (Kensington Tallman) now off to ice hockey camp for the summer. Working in harmony with Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear, Joy (Amy Poehler) continues to steer the ship at HQ, crafting the formation of Riley’s beliefs into a sense of self. A rude awakening arrives when puberty hits, introducing a new set of emotions – Anxiety (Maya Hawke),  Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) and the ever-amusing – and very French– Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos). As Riley faces the daunting prospect of making the grade for a new team, impressing the older girls and dealing with a change in her close friendships, the competing emotions cause chaos.

Hawke excels as Anxiety, a fitting rival to Joy. The earnest scratchiness of her tone sells a well-meaning emotion, who left unchecked, lets their dogged determination to protect Riley quickly spiral into a torrent of doom. Despite the newer characters dominating the narrative, a skilful screenplay from Dave Holstein and Meg LeFauve makes time to evolve Joy’s arc. Where the first instalment saw her learning to accept sadness as a healthy part of Riley’s life, here, she’s forced to assess her relevance amongst the complexity of teenage trials and tribulations. If Inside Out’s charm lies in tapping into our childhood memories, 2 deepens this relatability and elevates its maturity. The expanded emotions Riley experiences are ones many of us either remember well from our teenage years or live with and struggle against for the rest of our lives. This allows for a conclusion that, while predictable, feels heartfelt and powerful. 

Amusing and delightfully punny as ever in its world (or mind) building, Inside Out 2 is a timely return to form for Pixar. While some may miss the gut-punch moments of its predecessor, this remains a worthy sequel that resonates deeply and may even have some of us reflecting on which emotions are running their HQ right now.

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