INSIDE OUT 2: “Maybe this is just what happens when you grow up.”

In this fantastic follow up to one of Pixar's most beloved tales of childhood, we gain an insight into the mind of teenaged Riley, and a warts-and-all look at trials and tribulations of girlhood, puberty and growing a unique sense of self. 4 stars.

(Image: Disney UK)

After 9 long years, Pixar has finally reunited us with the goofy, energetic, loveable Riley, and her gang of colourful, if not overly impassioned and protective, emotions. Inside Out 2 follows on from the widely loved original which debuted in 2015, checking back in with the now 13-year-old Riley (Kensington Tallman) as she tackles friendships, anxiety, highschool and the dreaded puberty. 

Accompanying these teenage years that plague the nightmares of so many parents, is a host of new emotions that squeeze their way both into our hearts and Riley’s mind. Yep, this disruptive crew of Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) and Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos) are here to stay.

And our more familiar host of emotional friends – Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Liza Lapira), Fear (Tony Hale), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and group leader Joy (Amy Poehler) – are NOT happy. Not only is there no physical space for the crew of ‘more complex emotions’, but these emotions are bolder, more organised and more hyper-focused on protecting Riley from the “fears she can’t see” – whatever the cost. The outcome is the dramatic exile of Riley’s beloved childhood emotions, the misplacement of Riley’s sense of self and a nerve wracking weekend at hockey camp where viewers will want to yell “Riley no!”

Inside Out 2 balances that oh-so-relatable teenager tug of war between emotional burdens, changing lifestyles, and the evolving sense of self with ease, compassion and widespread awareness. Continually tying the physical battles for control within Riley’s mind to the metaphorical battles for control occurring within Riley’s sense of identity and self, this sequel further expands upon the unique and groundbreaking world building that made the original film such a delight.
From the beliefs that grow from the waters of floating memories, to the vault of Riley’s darkest secrets, fans of the original have many new and fascinating mind processes to discover.

And just as the first film offered a revolutionary new way of depicting the mind and understanding our relationships with emotions, memory and childhood, this new outing allows for a deeper, more complex construction of understanding puberty, growing up and unravelling our sense of self.
This time the story answers ever more nuanced questions regarding who we are, what we believe in, what thoughts and feelings should drive us and how a nuanced mix of good and bad memories is the healthiest way of building a fully formed sense of identity, at every age. 

(Image: Disney UK)

As emotions new and old trek across Riley’s mind in a fight to prove what is needed to make Riley- Riley, the teenager’s physical presence is a relatable and nuanced picture of a teenage girl – passionate, goofy, nervous, and competitive. Pimples, nerves, crushes – a truly warts and all depiction of girlhood. Riley is still the complex, relatable little girl that we all felt a connection to – she just has anxiety fueling her now, and it is this new powerhouse emotion that drives the plot and the film’s boldest characterisation. 

Maya Hawke is an absolute stand out as Anxiety, balancing hyper-focused planning with panicked overthinking in a way that many familiar with the feeling will instantly recognise. When the inevitable and stormy panic attack arises, this scene becomes a most detailed and impressive depiction of the realities of anxiety and mental health. 

The remaining cast of new and old emotions provide hilarious levels of comedy, colour and melancholy, however a good portion of the film’s laugh-out loud humour emerges from the dark secrets hidden in Riley’s subconscious. From childhood TV parodies to video game crushes, these hidden characters have unique animation styles, bringing a surprising burst of creativity and some truly guttural laughs into the cinema. 

Most impressive in this sequel, however, is the obvious evolution of animation and technology that has occurred in the near decade since the original debuted. Directed by Kelsey Mann and written by Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein, it is clear that a huge amount of care has gone into ensuring that the style and artistry of this film is prioritised beyond a quick franchise turnover;  in that way, I’d happily wait another decade for a part three. Inside Out, and Pixar studios for that matter, has never been a story that can be rushed, and it is this deep protection of Riley’s story that fuels both the emotions’ actions within the film and the impressive artistry of the series as a whole. 

The animation in this Pixar outing is beyond remarkable – from the way daylight dances across the screen, to the individual flecks of ice seen bouncing off Riley’s skates, and the unique colourisation of each individual emotion. I could have watched it for days. 

Whilst the emotional climax of this film may not be as gut wrenching as the original loss of Bing Bong, it’s certainly worth waiting for. Because when Michael Giacchino’s tinkling theme returns in a moment of Joy, wonder and a simple love for life, the tears will spring forth and the full weight of this most powerful of film series will be felt, remembered and cherished. 

Inside Out 2 is a wonderfully fun, emotional and realistic depiction of the joys, anxieties and changes of teenage years. Maintaining a deep protection of its colourful emotions, artistic musicality, worldbuilding and design, and, of course, “our sweet girl Riley”: the sequel is a must see for Pixar fans young and old. 

For those older fans, the nostalgia for the years of girlhood and teenage growth springs forth immediately (even if the actual character of nostalgia has little screen time in the film itself). For the younger fans, Inside Out still offers a hilarious and relatable sense of fun, combined with the world building to understand what actually happens inside your head. 

And just as there is no emotion of regret in Riley’s mind, so too will there exist not one ounce of regret for any viewer of this delightful, emotional, heartwarming sequel.

Inside Out 2 premieres in cinemas this Friday, the 14th of June. 

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