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“Inside Out 2” Teaches Via Familiarity

Written by: Patrick Howard | June 13th, 2024

Inside Out 2 (Kelsey Mann, 2024) 3 out of 5 stars

When Pixar released the first Inside Out film in 2015, I was amazed by how Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen were able to visually simplify the importance of intermingling of emotions to an audience under the age of 12. While I am not a parent, I can only imagine parents desperately looking for digestible resources that can properly teach their children about various emotions and why it’s vital that they feel those emotions when they arise. This year’s Inside Out 2, now helmed by Kelsey Mann (making his feature debut), unabashedly aims for the exact same target but with the baggage of the complex emotions of adolescence.

Riley Andersen (Kensington Tallman), our human protagonist from the first film, is now a teenager. She and her friends get a taste of what the high-school life will be like for them when they are asked to attend a Bay Area hockey camp for three days. However, at the shock of Riley and her core emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger), puberty busts through her psyche like a wrecking ball, and with it, new emotions, led by Anxiety (Maya Hawke, Asteroid City).

l-r: Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Joy (Amy Poehler) in INSIDE OUT 2 ©2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The new additions to the cast of emotions are such a delight. Along with Anxiety, we are introduced to Envy (Ayo Edebiri, Bottoms), Ennui (Adèle Exarchpolous, Passages), and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser, Richard Jewell). Joy, played again by Amy Poehler, butts heads with Anxiety over how Riley should behave now that puberty and high school are her new reality. Anxiety, with the help of the other new emotions, sends Joy and her team to the back of Riley’s mind, so Anxiety can enact the multi-step plan in making Riley’s high-school life as successful as possible. Can Joy and the other emotions make it back before Riley’s core beliefs are changed for the worst?

Beyond the idea of Riley as a teenager, Inside Out 2 never shakes up the plot in a way that helps it stand on its own. It’s a true case of sequel-itis. The expected jokes and comments about this stage of development are clever and funny, but once you line them up with the same material from Inside Out, the unique insights dwindle quickly. I left the theater a little dejected that the writing for the film wasn’t on par with the first one, but then I witnessed something.

l-r: Joy (Amy Poehler) and Anxiety (Maya Hawke) in INSIDE OUT 2 ©2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

As I was descending down the escalator in the theater, I overheard a conversation between a mother and her young daughter. The mother was asking her daughter about how anxiety plays a role in her own life. The girl didn’t hesitate to talk about her experience with anxiety and how it functioned with her other emotions. Despite my clear misgivings about the film, it seems that Inside Out 2 successfully opens an important dialogue that is vital for every young person to have with a trusted adult or friend.


Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.

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