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'Inside Out 2' Review

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June 16, 2024
Tyler Banark
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Pixar’s newfound knack for unnecessary sequels rears its head once again with Inside Out 2. When the inevitable news broke that a sequel to the 2015 hit was going into production, many people (including myself) hesitated to view things positively and pondered the need for its existence. On top of that, Pixar was currently on a losing streak in terms of critical and audience reactions, with the likes of Lightyear and Elemental coming and going without much fanfare. And even with those worrisome trailers, all those negative thoughts left my head once I sat down to watch the final product, which could (and hopefully will) be the start of the studio returning to form.

Despite all the pageantry by Pixar to be returning to this property, some of the original key players in the cast and crew are missing. For the cast, only Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, and Lewis Black returned to voice Joy, Sadness, and Anger, respectively. Tony Hale and Liza Lapira took over for Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling as Fear and Disgust, an unfortunate downgrade as the replacements don’t rise to the occasion. But on a more positive note, Poehler once again knocks it out of the park as Joy, and she’s joined by a bevy of new emotions in Embarrassed, Ennui, Envy, and Anxiety. Ayo Edebiri and Maya Hawke stand out as Envy and Anxiety, respectively, with the latter giving the best voiceover performance of the year thus far, capturing the frenetic chaos and capitalizing on the inner struggle one can have when dealing with it. At the same time, Edebiri brings her bombastic charms to her adorable character.

Regarding the crew, the most prominent absentees are previous co-writer/director (and overall Pixar legend) Pete Docter and composer Michael Giacchino. Although Docter is still attached to the project as an executive producer and his role as Chief Creative Officer at the studio, his absence is felt in the driver’s seat as veteran studio writer Kelsey Mann takes over. That isn’t to say Mann does a lousy job, there’s just that extra bit of creativity missing to make this all feel truly special. After Anxiety boots the original emotions from headquarters, they come across more concepts that operate the human mind, many of them not seen in the first movie. Riley’s secret vault, brainstorms, Sense of Self, and a sar-chasm are just as generously illustrated as the ones presented in the predecessor.

The use of Riley’s beliefs as cords stringing from a pond underneath headquarters to a flower inside of it is terrific. The designs of the new emotions felt fitting given their natures - Embarrassment being big and Envy being small - each conveying how those feelings take over once expressed. There’s also a moment where Anxiety creates a tornado when she starts to take over, an apt metaphor that’s as fun to watch as it is relatable.

In a more stunning turn of events, the film takes a stab at different animation styles in several scenes. When the original emotions are locked away in Riley’s secret vault, they meet Bloofy, a character from Riley’s favorite children’s show, and Lance Slashblade, a video game character that Riley once had a crush on. Bloofy and Lance are animated differently, with the former (along with his fanny pack sidekick Pouchy) being traditionally 2-D animated and the latter having the design of a late 2000s video game graphic. Although it’s not something I would have expected Pixar to do, it’s a pleasant surprise from their traditional formula.

There may be some slight missteps in this sequel, but Inside Out 2 is still a delightful return to the world of emotions, bringing back the spark that we once consistently expected from Pixar. The kids will have fun watching it for its humor, while the grown-ups will find the concepts to be intriguing. How long will it take before Pixar is officially back? Who knows, but there’s no need for longtime fans and moviegoers to get anxious over it.

You can follow Tyler and hear more of his thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Letterboxd.

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