Review: Inside Out 2


If you were to ask me what the best Pixar movie of the past decade was, it would be Inside Out without a doubt. The examination of the emotions within people and the personification of abstract concepts and ideas was both poignant and charming in a way that few animated films can hope to achieve. I laughed and cried while watching it and while I was excited about the prospect of Inside Out 2, I knew to keep my expectations in check. Not because I didn’t think there was any material to mine from Riley now being a teenager, but because it was a Pixar sequel. 

With the exception of the early Toy Story movies, Pixar’s attempts to capitalize on its franchises have been underwhelming at best. Monsters University. Finding Dory. Cars 2. Lightyear. All of these movies have been mediocre at best and failures at worst. So you’ll forgive me for entering Inside Out 2 with a slight bit of caution, especially without Pete Doctor returning to the director’s chair. All I wanted from Inside Out 2 was for it to recapture the magic of the first movie and expand on it in new and original ways. The first half of that statement is thankfully there, but not so much the second half.

Inside Out 2 | Official Trailer

Inside Out 2
Director: Kelsey Mann
Release Date: June 14, 2024 (Theatrical)
Rating: PG

It’s been a year since the first film and Riley (Kensington Tallman), and her emotions have adapted well to life in San Francisco. All of her emotions are in check and working pretty well with each other, with Joy (Amy Poehler) still running the show and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Liza Lapira), and Fear (Tony Hale) all content and happy with how Riley is developing. Then puberty happens. With it, Riley gets new emotions in the form of Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), embarrassment (Paul Walter Houser), and Ennui (Adele Exarchopoulos), and Riley discovers that her friends will be going to a different school when they graduate middle school. With that, Anxiety begins to take over in an attempt to secure Riley’s future, leading to the older emotions being pushed out and having them try to not only find their way back to Headquarters but also to stop Anxiety from potentially ruining Riley’s life.

Like the first movie, there are a lot of fun concepts that Inside Out 2 plays around with. Seeing the panic that puberty causes and how it introduces more emotions is a logical and smart way to expand the cast and potential for future situations. I love the dynamics between the older emotions and the newer ones, like how Fear and Anxiety get along, as do Embarrassment and Sadness. I like how the film tries to explain these new emotions to the audience, such as saying how if Fear embodies the desire to protect Riley from things that she sees, Anxiety exists to protect Riley from the things she can’t see.  Then you have concepts like a sense of self-being formed by the emotions that Joy selects to make Riley the best possible person and reject other negative thoughts to the back of her mind. Sometimes it’s a bit too on-the-nose and that’s symptomatic of a larger problem with the sequel, but it feels like a logical evolution of what Inside Out established. 

It all still comes across as a nice, light-hearted comedy thankfully. There are tons more interactions between the emotions now in new and different ways. The first film primarily saw the emotions split into two groups, which limited some of the comedy and the potential for unique interactions. Here there are ample opportunities to let the old emotions support each other in new and different ways while giving the new emotions some time to stand out on their own… for the most part. 

Review: Inside Out 2

Copyright: Disney

The new emotions are very hit-and-miss, not only in their impact on Riley but how developed they are as characters. Anxiety and Embarrassment take the forefront of development, with Anxiety coming across as a great antagonistic force who means well but is trying to help in all of the wrong ways. She’s an entertaining character in a lot of ways and you can see that while she’s not technically wrong, she’s also not right either, making her a great foil for Joy and her constantly chipper attitude. Meanwhile, Embarrassment is a great source of relatable comic relief that is a delight to watch. You really do feel for the guy as he wants to do good but is too shy and nonconfrontational to do anything about it.

As for Ennui and Envy, the former is really only used for a few gags here and there and doesn’t contribute much. She’s just kind of… present to the point where I wonder why she was even included in the first place. Envy is the biggest instance of wasted potential in the film though. She simply acts like a mouthpiece for Anxiety and doesn’t have any real personality of her own. Plus as far as concepts go, she’s a bit too esoteric and her implementation in Riley’s mind feels clunky. It’s a shame too because Ayo Edebiri is a funny actress and has been great in other projects but she just doesn’t have much to work with here. 

As Inside Out 2 continues, you can’t help but feel that this is all very “been there, done that.” We see Joy go on a quest to get some fragment of Riley, leaving other emotions in charge that only serve to make things worse, with Joy ultimately realizing that her actions are just as harmful to Riley’s development as the others. We see some interactions with manifestations of a person’s psyche, some jokes where we check in on what other people’s emotions are up to during conversations, and an ending where the emotions learn to accept each other and their flaws. It’s all still very well done and well executed, but it’s something that we’ve seen before in the first movie, which is arguably better.

Review: Inside Out 2

Copyright: Disney

What the film does differently is how much the story embodies the cringe of adolescence. The need to fit in, find social acceptance, and worry about trivial things that only seem important at the moment but actually aren’t is very appropriate and helps to paint a picture that I’m sure will have older audience members shrink into their seats and think back at their own teenage years. Yes, the movie is cringy, but that’s the point. It’s interesting to pair this movie with another recent Pixar movie, Turning Red. That movie also dealt with very similar ideas and concepts, but I think that Turning Red explored them a little bit better because it focused on the human element of puberty and how it can affect people rather than the psychological one. It’s a personal preference, I know, but when comparing the two, it’s clear that Turning Red is a much more relatable film because of how personal it was for its director.

Inside Out 2 is technically a deeper movie, but it’s also a lot more blatant in getting its message across. As the film progresses and Anxiety becomes more and more pronounced within Riley’s mind, the script takes the easy way out and has the characters say what the point of the film is. I know there’s subtext, but Inside Out 2 feels much more heavy-handed in ensuring everyone knows what the theme is. One of the core themes of the first film – the need to accept sadness into our lives instead of denying it – was handled very well through smaller moments and naturally served as the coda of the film. Here it comes down to a large climax where the characters are constantly saying the general message without any subtext while Riley’s inner monologue reinforces it every few minutes. I’m not saying that the film lacks confidence because it doesn’t, but it thinks that because its ideas are slightly more complicated it needs to make sure that everyone, including younger audience members, knows what’s going on. And to do that, the dialogue needs to be simpler.

Inside Out 2 is a very safe sequel, but being a safe sequel to one of the best-animated movies of the 21st century is hardly a biting criticism. I’m sure that when there’s the inevitable Inside Out 3 it’ll stick to the formula just as much and we’ll have some deep lesson that looks at young adulthood rather than childhood and adolescence with a couple of new emotions added. It’s a pattern that Inside Out 2 proves can work, but that hypothetical sequel needs to be more inventive and take more risks than Inside Out 2 did. Again, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Inside Out 2, but by being as safe as it is, comparisons are inevitably going to be drawn to the first film, and with very few exceptions, most of those comparisons are unfavorable. Inside Out 2 is a good movie, but it could have been a great one.




Inside Out 2 is a solid sequel that opts to take the safe route a bit too many times, missing several opportunities to surpass its excellent predecessor.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.