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‘Inside Out 2’ is a Wonderfully Real Film of Adult Emotions

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When the first Inside Out was released in 2015, it felt like animation had been changed for the better. The film follows 11-year-old Riley’s personified emotions as they attempt to help her navigate a significant move that fundamentally changes her life. The depth of the characters and the exploration of depression hit me and so many others like a sucker punch to the gut, making it one of the most genuine animated films of its time. Almost a decade later, Pixar and Disney are looking to replicate that same exploration of growing up and the emotions accompanying that in Inside Out 2

This sequel is written by Meg LeFauve, who wrote the first film, along with David Holstein, and is the directorial debut of Kelsey Mann, who has a long working relationship with Pixar. It continues the journey of Joy (Amy Poehler), who continues to navigate the changes in Riley as she matures and the new emotions that join along the way. It’s never easy to grow from a child to a young adult, as our primary five emotions are about to discover. In a story that is just as emotionally real and raw as the first, Inside Out 2 is an absolute win for Disney, reflected by the box office that refuses to stop climbing as word of mouth for this fantastic film continues to grow. Continue to find out why I thought this might be a contender for best-animated film of the year. 

[Warning: spoilers from Inside Out 2 are below!]

Riley goes from child to teenager in Inside Out 2

Since the last time audiences were invited into Riley’s head, it seems like life has been relatively easy. Well, maybe easy is the wrong word when it comes to emotions, but it does seem that there has been a peaceful homeostasis between Joy and her four housemates. After she struggles with Sadness (Phyllis Smith), the two strong emotions, along with Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Liza Lapira), and Fear (Tony Hale), have struck a balance, allowing Riley to experience and honor every one of them. 

Riley isn’t a child anymore, but a teenager, which comes with a huge hurdle that none of the emotions are expecting: puberty. That’s right. Now that these five emotions have developed a system that works, an influx of hormones brings with it four new emotions, which are all fighting for control over the system. 

Inside Out 2
LtR: Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Disgust (Liza Lapira), Fear (Tony Hale) and Anger (Lewis Black). Inside Out 2 (Disney/Pixar).

Led by Anxiety (Maya Hawke), the new team of emotions features Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser). Their arrival signals a change of guard, as Anxiety points out that the original Fab Five are no longer needed. They are redundant and outdated and are holding Riley back from her new life. 

Paired with their arrival is another significant life change: the transition from middle school to high school. If that wasn’t stressful enough, Riley learns early in the film that her two best friends, since her move from Minnesota to California, are going to a different school, leaving her alone once again.

Invited to a hockey camp where she can change her image into something else, Anxiety pushes Joy and her friends out of the control center and rips Riley’s Sense of Self from its home. If Riley is to survive high school, she’ll need to change her core beliefs, and Anxiety has a plan…

Throughout the three-day camp, Joy, Anger, Sadness, Disgust, and Fear are in a race against time. Can they find Riley’s old sense of self before she’s fundamentally changed forever, or is this the end of the Riley they’ve come to know and love?

Pixar and Disney’s latest film deals with adult emotions in such a real way

Something I’ve come to expect from any film attached to both Disney and Pixar is quality. There isn’t a movie they made that I haven’t loved the story or message they deliver. However, there was always something special about Inside Out for me, which carries on into the sequel. These two films explore something so universal that almost everyone in the world can relate to it to some degree. 

Emotions and the thoughts that go along with them. Whether we feel like we have a good grasp on them or that they are out of control, our thoughts and emotions dictate everything in our lives, from when we wake up to when we lay our heads on the pillow. Inside Out’s portrayal of our emotions was done so incredibly well that it almost hurt to see them play out on screen. 

Inside Out 2 took what worked so well in the first film and expanded on the idea. What is introduced in the sequel are more complex emotions, ones that adults could easily relate to. Specifically, Anxiety who serves as a quasi-villain of the story and is instantaneously the emotion I (and other adults, I’m sure) could identify with on an intimate level. The feeling that no matter what, you will mess something up. The constant questioning of your every move and the panic that comes from making the wrong decision.

Inside Out 2 Emotions
Promotional image from Inside Out 2 (Disney/Pixar).

As someone who has suffered from anxiety on and off for most of his life, the physical manifestation of the emotion felt incredibly real, but in a good way. Watching Riley experience a panic attack internally and externally was perfect. When Hawke’s Anxiety is frozen in place and spinning around in circles, I know exactly how that feels because that’s what goes on in my mind every time my anxiety spikes.

Watching it happen on screen, I almost felt like I couldn’t breathe. I have the tool kit to know how to handle my anxiety for the most part, but seeing such an accurate representation hit me harder than I expected. However, as the film progresses, and we hit the emotional climax, something genuinely amazing happened; I felt relief. It’s incredibly comforting to see this experience normalized on-screen, reminding me that I’m not the only one to experience this.

For this reason alone, Inside Out 2 felt more for the older crowd than it was for children. Not that younger children can’t watch this film and enjoy it, but Riley’s growth of emotions speaks to older audience goers, as the complexity of their nuances might not be appreciated by those who haven’t experienced them.

Disney and Pixar have another hit with Inside Out 2

There was nothing about Inside Out 2 that I didn’t love. The animation looked superb, and the vocal talent was exceptional (I didn’t even notice the switch of voice actors for Disgust and Fear from the original film, even though I was aware of the change before seeing the movie).

The most important part was the care and love that those who created this sequel put into understanding and representing the real and raw emotions many of us experience daily. For that reason alone, Inside Out 2 deserves all the praise and recognition it’s receiving because it is genuinely just as good as the first, if not more relatable.

Inside Out 2 is a film that should be experienced on the big screen with your loved ones around you. If you have anxiety or have had it in the past, this film will be somewhat cathartic, allowing you to experience healing and normalization of a rather isolating experience.

Pixar’s Inside Out 2 is currently playing in theaters. Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus if you have seen or plan on seeing this film in theaters!

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

Brian Kitson has 368 posts and counting. See all posts by Brian Kitson