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Inside Out 2

The Pixar sequel retains its' predecessor's emotion and humor, if not its depth

Pixar became known for topping their previous films with even more original and unique concepts. However, as with much of Hollywood, the studio didn’t avoid the descent into sequels and spin-offs. Some of these were warranted follow-ups, such as Toy Story 2 (1999) or Toy Story 3 (2010), but others have been largely forgettable such as Finding Dory (2016), The Incredibles 2 (2018), and Lightyear (2022).

 

Inside Out 2 (2024) is the latest of these Pixar sequels, following up on the anthropomorphized emptions of the San Francisco teenager Riley (Kensington Tallman). Riley is entering puberty, meaning that the group of classic emotions that had been running the show, such as Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), and Anger (Lewis Black) are joined by newcomers such as Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Embarrassment (Paul Walter-Hauser), and Envy (Ayo Edebiri). The result is a clash as they all attempt to dictate Riley’s actions.

 

Inside Out 2 comes from first time director Kelsey Mann, who has been an animator on previous Pixar films such as The Good Dinosaur (2015), Onward (2020), and Elemental (2023). Mann maintains the tone and visual aesthetic of the first film and does a proper job, keeping the balance of adult-to-children’s entertainment within the film. Inside Out 2 also retains an effective emotional finale that will bring even the most stoic viewer to tears. However, this sequel struggles with integrating its mature explorations of psychology and mental health with the sillier aspects meant for children.

 

Pixar is at its peak when delivering stories that can be enjoyed by both adults and children. Inside Out 2 doesn’t find the perfect overlay of these elements, instead alternating sequences for adults and children. The result is a seesawing film that jars with an overuse of puns and forced side quests in the second act. This makes much of the narrative in the first two acts of the film to feel hollow, with silly, but meaningless sequences that fail to move the story forward. This is largely rescued from becoming a forgettable if enjoyable children’s film by the third act, which brings the introspection and emotional climax to an irresistible finale. However, having had the rest of the film only half-heartedly build up to this conclusion, means the resolution feels less earned than simply found by the narrative.

 

The animation quality proves to be consistent with its 2015 predecessor, however, when compared with its $200 million budget, the tactile and visceral look of the hair and skin of fantastical and cartoonish characters is a downgrade from the work done in the likes of Soul (2020) or Turning Red (2022). This could come from many reasons, from the pushback from animators to the grueling working conditions that they had been subject to over the past decades, to a creative decision from the filmmakers, or simply bad management. The result is a look that while not distracting, for keen-eyed viewers, will seem like a rushed and inattentive job.

 

In the end, Inside Out 2 is an enjoyable Pixar film, if disjointed in its presentation of emotional reflections and childhood entertainment. The ending packs its expected and deserved emotional punch, but this sequel, unfairly or not, pales when compared with the depth and careful curation of the first film. Nevertheless, a good Pixar still trumps the average film in providing an entertaining and heartfelt time at the movies.

7.6/10

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About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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