Inside Out 2 (2024)
Inside Out 2 (2024)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: June 14th, 2024 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Kelsey Mann Actors: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Tony Hale, Liza Lapira, Kensington Tallman, Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri, Adele Exarchopoulos, Paul Walter Hauser, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan

 


 

R

iley Andersen (Kensington Tallman) of the Foghorns hockey team is just thirteen, yet she has all of her emotions in check – anthropomorphized in the forms of Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale), and Disgust (Liza Lapira) – at the helm in the headquarters of her brain, where they take turns at a console, essentially DJ’ing every action. Fortunately, Joy tends to be in the lead, keeping the young girl in a relatively good mood. And she stays positive, even while becoming an official teenager, complete with growth spurt and braces and skin blemishes.

“Let me catch you up.” Since this is a sequel, the world-building of the mind is mostly in place, allowing for the briefest of reminders as to how everything functions – from islands of significant concepts, to the formation of memories and beliefs. Now, however, there’s a new entity in the form of a glowing, crystalline structure in the middle of the control center, which designates a sense of self, which will be integral when Riley heads off to a three-day excursion to the Bay Area Skills Camp to determine her placement on an upcoming high school hockey team. But that’s not the only thing she’ll have to contend with, as a flashing red “puberty” button materializes suddenly on the console, throwing the entire bridge crew into chaos – a destructive disorder that escalates considerably once Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), and Ennui (Adele Exarchopoulos) show up to meddle with buttons and switches and regulators.

They may be more complex emotions, which seemingly sabotage Riley’s behaviors, but essentially, Anxiety is the only substantial one, as Envy and Ennui (perhaps a poor choice for a name, considering target audiences aren’t likely to understand it) are utilized for a couple of one-liners and little else. But the ways the mind organizes and deep-cleans itself (particularly during sleep) are once again visually depicted in spectacularly creative manners. The inner-workings of exaggerated, amplified emotions are still incredibly clever, relatable, witty, introspective, and compelling (though engaging tangents may have been lost by not including anything to do with an obsession with boys). The writing team has done a superb job of harnessing the adolescent mindset, not just by embracing stereotypes, but also by scrutinizing a specific scenario of a sports retreat, which highlights the contention between existing friend groups and the covetable potential of new ones. This all leads to a new quest for Joy (comically, a feeling often pushed aside by moody teens), whose odyssey through suppressed emotions, the stream of consciousness, and brainstorms is as artistic and fascinating as before.

Yet even with the return of likable characters and the imaginativeness (and hilarity) of how a personality can be crafted – and then reshaped – by aging and the onset of disruptive hormones, “Inside Out 2” doesn’t pack the poignant wallop of its predecessor. The continual battle between fitting in and being true to oneself is astute and intuitive, especially as Riley has a crisis of identity, weighing feelings of doubt and self-worth (an imagination running wild) against moral uprightness, but it fails to culminate in a monumental fashion (too neatly, in fact, to be exceptional). It’s moving, cute, and goodnatured, but it never matches the profound examination of childhood mental development seen in the prior picture, instead opting for a safe, simple conflict with a pleasant, tidy outcome. And where is Michael Giacchino’s absolutely stunning, beautiful theme music (except for during the introductory Disney logo, and momentarily at the climax), which could have singlehandedly elevated countless sequences? What a stupendously tragic mistake to brush it aside. Nevertheless, “Inside Out 2” is a sweetly entertaining followup, even if its necessity is undoubtedly in question.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10