Inside Out 2 Is Pixar Doing What Pixar Does Best

Inside Out 2 Is Pixar Doing What Pixar Does Best

Over the past three decades, Pixar made a name for itself making animated films that perfectly thread the needle. On the one side? Vibrant, kid-friendly entertainment. The other? Complex, powerful, relatable adult themes. Wall-E is a movie about a robot, but it’s also about love, loneliness, and the end of the world. Toy Story is about talking toys but it’s also about loyalty, selfishness, and friendship. In recent years, the company has struggled to find that just-right balance, but Inside Out 2 does that and then some. It’s a reminder that when Pixar gets things right, magic is possible.

Inside Out 2 picks up right where things left off in Pete Docter’s Oscar-winning 2015 original. Riley Andersen is now 13 years old, and after previously being controlled by only five core emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Disgust), puberty necessitates several new ones join her mind. There’s Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), and most importantly, Anxiety (Maya Hawke), who quickly takes a leadership role. This forces Riley’s original emotions on a journey to find Riley’s true self, as they continually run up against the person Riley has become now that she’s driven by her new emotions.

Much like the original film, the best thing about Inside Out 2 is just how clever it is. Almost every single thing that happens in it will have you shaking your head and wondering “How did they come up with that?” It starts with Riley forming beliefs and extends to clever realizations of concepts such as sarcasm, brainstorming, and stream of consciousness. Other highlights include a few new characters found in Riley’s vault where she keeps her biggest secrets, and an intense, frankly surprising moment near the end of the film that pushes the boundaries of kids’ movies. (Hint for any parents, what’s the first word you think of after you hear the word “anxiety”?)

The new emotions.

Many of those characters and situations allow Pixar to explore different types of animation at various points in the film, such as hand-drawn and paper-cut. Now, they’re probably all still computer generated, but seeing Pixar’s classic CG characters side by side with these other styles gives Inside Out 2 its own unique style and voice.

Speaking of voices, the film’s new voice actors give the original cast (and their replacements) a real run for their money. While standbys like Phyllis Smith as Sadness and Lewis Black as Anger do their jobs well enough, Edebiri, Exarchopoulos, and Hawke are on another level. If the originals are running on standard gas, the newbies are on jet fuel. Edebiri is filled with almost tangible passion. Exarchopoulos is perfectly, hilariously aloof. And Hawke gives a voice performance that sounds borderline unhealthy because of how wound up she is. She’s the perfect foil to Amy Poehler’s Joy who, this time around, does some growing up herself.

Along the way there are a ton of incredibly funny jokes, some beautifully cringey moments of growing up, lots of surprises, and ultimately the realization that if you were able to look inside the mind of a teenage girl, this story might begin to explain what makes them tick.

Joy and Sadness.

One tick against Inside Out 2 though is between a strong start and a truly powerful ending, things get a little bit repetitive. The new characters are all grouped up doing their thing, the original characters are mostly together doing their thing, and it goes back and forth with very few characters getting moments to shine. Also Riley makes some decisions that, while logical, just kind of suck. But, again, it all builds up to such a great finish that it ends up being worth it.

Which is why, in the end, Inside Out 2 is worth it as well. It’s not one of Pixar’s best all-time sequels, nor does it surpass the original, but the film is entertaining, emotional, and memorable all the same. It’s Pixar doing what Pixar does best. Directed by Kelsey Mann, from a script by Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein, Inside Out 2 opens this Friday, June 14.

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