Inside Out 2: Feelings Matter

It was the summer of 2015 and I was sitting in our local theater preparing to watch
Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out. I wasn’t sure what to expect since their two previous films
(Brave and Monsters University) were hit-and-miss with theatergoers and critics alike.
To attempt what looked like an animated film disguised as a psychological study of a
child and their innermost feelings was incredibly risky.

The end result was a movie that grossed $858 million and gave faces to feelings in a
way viewers had never experienced before. When Bing Bong died, the emotions were
physically felt throughout the auditorium (à la the first ten minutes of Up). I sat in my
seat, amazed that the concept worked as well as it did. The next day, I purchased a
stuffed version of Sadness for my 4 year-old daughter – the two were inseparable for
about a year.

When I heard that a sequel was coming out, I had mixed feelings (yes, that was
intentional). I thought to myself, ‘Why take the shine off of a stellar film by creating a
forgettable follow-up? It’s happened too many times to too many classics. I really do not
want to sit and watch a legacy destroyed in front of my eyes.’

It turns out that I shouldn’t have been concerned at all. As the opening bars of the
theme played, I got chills as all of the emotions that I felt in 2015 came rushing back anew. I
really shouldn’t have been concerned — Inside Out 2 is a worthy addition to the canon,
one that will be discussed and analyzed by many and enjoyed by kids and adults alike.
(Note: If you haven’t seen the first film, go ahead and watch it first. Then come back;
this review will be waiting for you.)

In the sequel, Riley Anderson (voice of Kensington Tallman) is a tween-ager, has finally
adjusted to the family’s move from Minnesota and is extremely good at ice hockey. Her
club team wins a tournament (some of their plays are reminiscent of The Mighty Ducks)
and attracts the eye of a local high school coach. She invites Riley and her two friends
to a three-day hockey camp to showcase their skills.

Inside Riley’s mind, the control panel has come a long way from when Joy had only one
button to push (Riley was a baby at that time). It’s big, has numerous bells and
switches, and is controlled by the five feelings from the first film—go-getter Joy (voice of
Amy Poehler), fiery Anger (Lewis Black), well-meaning Disgust (Liza Lapira), sharp-
dressed Fear (Tony Hale), and bluesy Sad (Phyllis Smith). But are only five feelings
enough for a teenager to have?

The answer lies in a red light on the side of the console marked “Puberty.” It goes off for
the first time as Riley packs for camp and chaos begins to ensue. Riley suddenly thinks
she’s not good enough, lashes out at her parents, and suddenly realizes that deodorant
is a necessary component of life. Despite the sudden changes, Joy holds hope in all of
Riley’s core memories, some of which have rooted in her subconscious and come to
mind as she handles situations, keeping her grounded. However, a new emotion arrives
unannounced in the form of Anxiety (Maya Hawke), a grinning, energy drink crushing

Additional emotions enter the arena—small but mighty Envy (Ayo Edebiri), large but shy
Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), and cell phone-wielding Ennui (Adele
Exarchopoulos). There’s not enough room for all nine emotions, and Anxiety
immediately takes the opportunity to get rid of the old guard, sending them to the Vault
where they can’t be heard from again. She begins to change Riley’s foundational
feelings about herself, which manifest in the teenager obsessing over impressing Val
(Lilimar Hernandez), struggling for acceptance, and displaying a determination to do
whatever it takes to make the high school team – even if it means abandoning her club
teammates and compromising her beliefs about herself.

Meanwhile, Joy and her crew are able to escape the Vault thanks to a jarringly two-
dimensional drawing named Bloofy (Ron Funches) and his sidekick Pouchy the fanny
pack (James Austin Johnson). The two are disturbingly reminiscent of Dora the
Explorer and Backpack yet could be helpful. The goal is to get back to headquarters
before Anxiety et. al permanently transform Riley.

When it comes to graphics, voice acting, and overall quality, Inside Out 2 is top-notch as
you might expect from a Pixar film. Even more important is the story itself, which might
become a core memory for some. There are myriad lessons to take away from the film
and will be unique to each viewer depending on the stage of life they’re in.
Riley’s emotions, responses, and inner-thinking caused me to look at my 15 year-old
more times in the theater than I care to admit. There is a palpable sense of potentially
losing the Riley from the first film that elicited a number of oohs and ohs from the others
in the theater. In one memorable scene, Anxiety and Envy have convinced her that she
needs to do something unthinkable–sneak into the coach’s office and get her notebook
so she can find out what her chances are of getting on the team. The revelation ignites
a drive that eventually leads to a surprisingly powerful conclusion.

Personally, I think a large number of people will be forced to consider their lives in light
of the antics of Anxiety. She comes off as a somewhat well-meaning but completely
unhinged personality. As Riley tries to make sense of all that is going on inside and
around her without Joy and the crew around, Anxiety adjusts and pushes buttons on the
console with such speed that she becomes a literal whirlwind. Joy knows the truth,
however – Anxiety can be crippling if not dealt with. Seeing a visual representation of
this was truly eye-opening. It also brought to mind a passage from the Bible where

We’re told not to worry about anything, instead sharing our struggles with God and
receiving His peace in return (see Philippians 4:6-7). Jesus says not to worry about
tomorrow as each day has enough trouble of its own (see Matthew 6:34). In the case of
Riley, that almost proved to be catastrophic.

I’m pretty confident that you’ll be hearing about Inside Out 2 come Oscar season –
perhaps in discussions for Best Picture. Pixar has created an immensely interesting and
impactful look at what goes on inside the mind which is worthy of your time. Hopefully
we’ll get to see Riley and her emotions take on adulthood in the future!

Inside Out 2 is available in theatres now.

One thought on “Inside Out 2: Feelings Matter

  1. Outstanding review! It is a great movie that prompts a lot of real life discussion to have with the kids about its content.

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