REVIEW: ‘Inside Out 2’ Is An Emotional Upgrade From the Original

Katie Francis

A large pink character in a hoodie stands beside an orange character with fuzzy hair, a green character, and a blue character resting on a couch, all in a colorful, futuristic room.

REVIEW: ‘Inside Out 2’ Is An Emotional Upgrade From the Original

Warning: This article contains spoilers.

Get emotional (in a good way) over “Inside Out 2” as we return to the mind of Riley (Kensington Tallman), now 13, as she navigates her emotions and the complexities of growing up.

Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale), and Disgust (Liza Lapira) are back as the emotions inside Riley’s head and having seemingly gotten everything in perfect order, now have to deal with the introduction of more complex emotions.

‘Inside Out 2’

Two animated characters, Joy and Sadness, standing in a glowing, futuristic environment with vertical light beams surrounding them.

We first see how things have changed in the short span of a year, as the inner architecture of Riley’s mind has changed a bit since last we saw it at the end of the first movie. We get a catch-up montage of Riley’s life, introducing us to her two best friends and the emotional development leading up to the present. Now, Riley and her friends have been invited to a hockey camp for the weekend, which could be the key to getting into the next grade’s more elite team, something Riley is very invested in. We watch the emotions as they guide Riley through these events and see how these developments translate to the world inside Riley’s head.

Five animated characters with different emotions react with alarm while looking at a control panel with a glowing red button.

Everything is going well, ’till the morning of the first day of camp, as an early wake-up comes for the emotions in the form of a blaring alarm announcing the beginning of puberty. Things immediately begin to get more complicated for Riley as with this change comes not just physical changes, but also the introduction of more complex emotions. Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), and Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos) arrive, seemingly led by Anxiety (Maya Hawke), and begin to disrupt the peace (of mind).

A large pink character in a hoodie stands beside an orange character with fuzzy hair, a green character, and a blue character resting on a couch, all in a colorful, futuristic room.

Joy tries to maintain order with these new emotions, as they begin to add new mental obstacles for every decision. Not being able to see eye to eye about what’s good for Riley, Anxiety starts a coup, forcing out Joy and the old emotions, and taking control of Riley. The primary focus of the movie is then following along as Riley struggles with the pressure of performing well for the hockey camp and dealing with her new and old friends; all the while, her new emotions struggle to guide Riley through it all under the guise of knowing what’s best for her as her more “sophisticated” emotions. All the while, Joy and the original crew navigate familiar and new parts of Riley’s mind in their attempt to regain control.

Animated characters from the movie "Inside Out" featuring Joy, Sadness, Anger, and Disgust looking surprised at another character with orange hair in a colorful control room.

Though the first film’s story followed the mind of a child through her anthropomorphized cartoon emotions, it had a lot of humor and emotional beats for adults. “Inside Out 2” is no different and maybe even leans more into it.

A group of colorful characters, including a bird-like figure and a pink elephant-like creature, stand in a futuristic control room with a glowing console in front of them.

Where “Inside Out” focused mainly on the outward effects of sadness and even the absence of that emotion, “Inside Out 2” gives that focus to anxiety. It introduces Anxiety, showing us a new emotion that is initially a positive addition as she successfully navigates her first couple of situations controlling Riley, but soon, the negative effects of using only that emotion to drive yourself build up. There’s a scene where we watch Anxiety begins to increase in erratic behavior and speed, appropriately freaking out about making everything right for Riley; on the outside, we see the outward effects of this as Riley goes through an intense and hauntingly accurate representation of a panic attack.

An animated scene showing a blue-haired character in a green dress, arms raised, next to a character with wild red hair and an excited expression. Colorful lights are visible in the background.

It could be argued that “Inside Out 2” is just the same as its predecessor. The overarching story of each is very similar, but to us, it honestly felt like an upgrade. It takes all of the things that worked for “Inside Out” and expands upon them, adapting them as we follow along this zoomed-in coming-of-age story for Riley. The comedic bits, particularly involving the characters locked in Riley’s vault of secrets, are strong, and the emotional hits are potent.

Ultimately, “Inside Out 2” is a great sequel and another fun Pixar hit. 

Rating out of 7: 6

Watch the final trailer for “inside Out 2”:

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