‘Inside Out 2’ Movie Review: A Home Run for Pixar

Inside Out 2 is another home run from Pixar. It’s full of heart, honesty, and the stress-induced Anxiety of becoming a teenager. 

Almost nine years to the date, Pixar is releasing the follow-up to the 2015 smash hit Inside Out. Have you ever felt like your life is together as you prepare to do something, and a full rush of Anxiety arrives to tear all that down? That’s basically the premise of Inside Out 2The big question is whether the film can capture the magic from the first one again. I answer that and many more questions, including whether or not you should check it out.

Inside Out 2 follows Riley Anderson (voiced by Kensington Tallman) as she makes the daunting transition from middle school to high school and, like any teenager, faces new emotions that will shape her for the next phase of her life. Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, and Lewis Black return in their principal roles, while Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri, and Adèle Exarchopoulos enter the fold as new emotions.

I am a father of a fifteen-year-old daughter, so heading into Inside Out 2, I expected to feel quite a large amount of emotions as we see Riley transition from the days of middle school to high school as I have lived it over the past few years. As Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein’s script wisely shows, being a young girl in this world isn’t what it used to be. Expectations are higher than ever due to social media, kids being more aware of themselves and trying to fit in.

Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Smith), Anger (Black), Fear (Hale), and Disgust (Liza Lapira) have all been running Riley’s life for many years. The shift into puberty sees a new emotion show up in Anxiety (Hawke) that shapeshifts everything, including watching her take control of Riley.

This film offers many learning experiences that open your eyes to the world as we know it. Sure, it’s not easy being a kid—it never was—but now, with the everpresent social media, it makes it harder for little girls to find themselves in their own way instead of what they see on their phones. Factor in the expectations of grades, extracurricular activities, and, for girls, the evolution of your body; life is complex, and Inside Out 2 unpacks this in such a beautiful way.

LeFauve and Holstein’s script challenges adults in how we see our kids in the modern age. Of course, we will reflect on our childhood, but we were raised in a different world. LeFauve and Holstein know that, see that, and reflect that by showing how, at the drop of a dime, our kid’s feelings can upend without any questions. It’s not easy being a parent, and raising a kid in this world is hard, but we are all trying and need to be more patient with our children in a world full of obstacles.

Our mainstays of the cast are fantastic, but Maya Hawke’s portrayal of Anxiety was perfect. Hawke’s ability to conjure up these feelings and emotions and the craziness of this voice inside our head, which is either doubtful or trying to overcompensate, is spot-on and relatable. There is an entire sequence in the third act where Hawke stands out, reminding us we need to honor these voice actors way more than we do now.

Of the new characters, my personal favorite was Ennui, who Adèle Exarchopoulos voiced. Ennui was Riley’s boredom emotion, which is highlighted by giving short answers in response to anyone’s questions or being completely out of it during boring activities. This was the perfect representation of my daughter when I say, “How was your day?” and she hits me with “fine” or “boring,” nothing more, nothing less.

Pixar has long showcased brilliant animation with Toy Story, Ratatouilleand last year’s underrated gem ElementalThat said, there was something magical about the animation in Inside Out 2There were several sequences where I was in awe of the work and the small attention to detail for the character’s body. In one sequence, you see these massive balls flying through to help Joy propel to where she needs to go, and it is such a vibrant and stunning shot that you are left speechless. All in all, incredible work will lead to this team garnering many award nominations.

Also, I would like to mention that I hope Pixar continues to give the keys to their films to Kelsey Mann. This was Mann’s feature film debut, and he took this film and knocked it out of the ballpark. You see the level of care in his work within the movie because he has spent years working on them in other departments.

Overall, Inside Out 2 is authentic to its story in a way that will have teenagers worldwide self-reflecting and seeing their own selves on the big screen. It’s stunningly shot, brilliantly written, and voice acting that knocks it out of the ballpark. And for me, a reminder about how much I love my daughter and how proud I am of the teenager she is and the woman she is becoming. Grab your kids (or watch it yourself) and ensure you see this on the big screen. 

Inside Out 2 will be in theaters on June 14, 2024.

Learn more about the film, including how to get tickets, at the Disney website.

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