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Inside Out 2 (2024)

Pixar have had a rough few years. Three films in a row were switched to Disney Plus releases (against their director's wishes) and Lightyear was a critical and commercial failure. And all that was before Disney's cost-cutting saw dozens of its employees being made redundant. Things improved with Elemental, which after a rough start ultimately turned out to be a success. Still, it feels like there was a lot of pressure on Inside Out 2 to turn their fortunes around.

Original director Pete Docter stood aside- presumably as he's too busy with his role as Pixar's Chief Creative Officer- and into his place stood first-timer Kelsey Mann. The screenplay is by Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein. The film is produced by Mark Nielson, and executive produced by Pete Docter, Jonas Rivera and Dan Scanlon. It features the voices of Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Maya Hawke, Kensington Tallman, Liza Lapira. Tony Hale, Paul Walter Hauser and more. The film was released in cinemas on June 14, 2024.

The story picks up not long after 2015's original Inside Out left off, with Riley settled into her new home and school. But she has now turned 13 and is an official teenager- and with that comes the dread spectre of puberty. And with that comes a whole new set of emotions: Anxiety, Embarrassment, Envy and Ennui ("it's what you would call the boredom"). How will Joy, Sadness and the other original emotions cope with the newcomers? And how will Riley cope with life as a teen?

The question that inevitably gets asked of any sequel is: "is it as good- or even better- than the original?" Pixar's sequels, prequels and spin-offs have had something of a mixed reception. Toy Story 2 and 3 are often held up as prime examples of good sequels. But others are not quite so rapturously received.

So where, on a scale from Toy Story 3 to Cars 2 does Inside Out 2 fall?. I'm relived to say that it's much closer to the former than the latter. Inside Out 2 is a delight.

Some sequels set out to distinguish themselves from their originals by taking them in different directions. Inside Out 2 takes the other option and gives us essentially more of the same. It feels very much like the original Inside Out in tone and in its execution. It feels as if it could be Inside Out chapter 2- like you could step right from the original into the sequel. It very much feels like it's part of the same thing.

Not so that it offers nothing new. The new emotions are a fine addition, and they all feel like they fit in well with the original five. Anxiety has by far the biggest role to play of the new emotions, and is a fine addition to the cast. At times she has to play somewhat as an antagonist, but ultimately will prove to be an integral part of Riley's emotions.

The new emotions that Riley has to deal with show the more complex feelings that children experience as they grow up. Through this Inside Out 2 feels like a natural evolution of the first film. Puberty was the obvious place for the sequel to go, although keeping Riley young as freshly 13 avoids having to cover stuff they probably couldn't get away with in a Pixar film.

Visually, Inside Out 2 is in keeping with the first film. It does take advantage of animation technology advances in the nine years since the original was released, but it does so quite subtly. There's nothing overly flashy. Not to say that it doesn't look great- it continues to look excellent both inside Riley's head and outside.

One thing this sequel doesn't do much of is additional worldbuilding, or expanding the mythology of the world inside Riley's brain. Similarly, the story of Riley trying to make the ice hockey team and impress the cool older kids is pretty low stakes- although not to Riley.

Sequels often try to out-do their originals by "going big". Inside Out 2 has the confidence not to do that and just double down on what it does well. It feels like a smaller, more intimate film, and there's no reason that has to be a bad thing.

The voice cast is uniformly excellent with Amy Poehler born to play Joy, Phyllis Smith excellent as Sadness and Lewis Black hilarious as Anger. Among the newcomers Maya Hawke brings a brilliant nervous energy to Anxiety, and Tony Hale and Liza Lapira do a good job taking over from Bill Hader and Mindy Kalig respectively. Shout out to Paul Walter Hauser for turning up for a role that is almost completely wordless.

So ultimately, is Inside Out 2 better than the original? It's hard to say, but it is really close. The sequel is smart, funny, brilliantly observed and with a giant heart. The only real mark against is the lack of surprise- but that's something baked into the very idea of a sequel. Inside Out 2 is sure to bring you joy.



A Joyous Return For One Of Pixar's Best. If it doesn't get you in the feels maybe you should get your head looked at.