Inside Out 2 film poster and movie review

Movie Reviews

Inside Out 2

Reviewed by:
Luke Bonanno on June 12, 2024

Theatrical Release:
June 14, 2024

Inside Out 2 eases our fears that Pixar, as we know it, is doomed.

Running Time94 min

RatingPG

Running Time 94 min

RatingPG

Kelsey Mann

Meg LeFauve (story & screenplay); Kelsey Mann (story); Dave Holstein (screenplay)

Amy Poehler (Joy), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Lewis Black (Anger), Tony Hale (Fear), Liza Lapira (Disgust), Maya Hawke (Anxiety), Ayo Edebiri (Envy), Adèle Exarchopoulos (Ennui), Paul Walter Hauser (Embarrassment), Lilimar (Valentina Ortiz), Grace Lu (Grace), Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green (Bree), Kensington Tallman (Riley Andersen), Diane Lane (Mrs. Andersen), Kyle MacLachlan (Mr. Andersen), Yvette Nicole Brown (Coach Roberts), Ron Funches (Bloofy), James Austin Johnson (Pouchy), Yong Yea (Lance Slashblade), Dave Goelz (Mind Cop Frank), Frank Oz (Mind Cop Dave), Bobby Moynihan (Forgetter Bobby), Paula Poundstone (Forgetter Paula), John Ratzenberger (Fritz), June Squibb (Nostalgia)


Inside Out 2 (2024)

by Luke Bonanno

So few films in the thirty years of Pixar Animation Studios features can be categorized as misfires that each of those has been regarded as a distress signal, sending shockwaves through the animation and film industries at large. Pixar’s disappointments have been piling up in recent years. Suddenly, the 2010s’ two subpar Cars sequels and the flop The Good Dinosaur were not just freak outliers. To them, we can add 2022’s tepid Lightyear and 2023’s Elemental, even as the latter legged out to commercial respectability and a thus far generous public estimation. If we broaden the scope a little more to include the Disney+ premieres Luca and Turning Red and a Toy Story movie that was good but not a masterpiece, we can recognize that not only has the Emeryville, CA-based studio’s historic winning streak come to an end, it is also clearly trending downward. The recent news that Pixar was laying off 14% of its workforce put a human face on these miscalculations.

While Pixar long prided themselves on original stories and characters, the company has increasingly bent to the realities of business over the past decade and a half, cashing in on the goodwill and nostalgia their early hits continue to generate with many sequels and one prequel. While the Cars follow-ups were head-scratchers seemingly motivated by the line’s robust retail sales, Pixar’s other successors have largely hit the right notes. Toy Story 3 is among the studio’s most exceptional works ever created. Incredibles 2 picked up right where its predecessor left off to winning effect; its $609 million domestic box office take is an all-time record unlikely to be broken anytime soon. Monsters University and Finding Dory may not have creatively bested the original films that had a dozen or so years of a nostalgia head start, but they’re good times that managed not to sully — no pun intended — their respective brands.

Inside Out 2 is Pixar’s latest. Before you can ask whether we needed a sequel to Pixar’s last feature to draw an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, take a moment to look at the post-COVID box office trends and to check in with the 175 employees recently let go from their dream workplace. Now, the good news is that Inside Out 2 is not just a commercial play, a surefire attraction to help ensure that Disney CEO Bob Iger’s stock awards keep him earning over $30 million this year. It’s actually a fun and imaginative adventure that easily marks Pixar’s best work since their 2020 tandem of Onward and Soul. Is it on the level of the first Inside Out? Not quite. But it places a much-needed bandage to temporarily stop the bleeding of the animation powerhouse that has grown stagnant and predictable.

With the original Inside Out‘s writer-director Pete Docter now serving as the CCO of Pixar, directing duties have been passed on to Kelsey Mann, a TV animation-seasoned, decade-plus veteran at the studio who helmed the Monsters University short Party Central and supervised the story department on Monsters University, The Good Dinosaur, and Onward. Mann may not have worked on the original Inside Out, but he approaches this task with respect and competence, sparing us the off-brand nature that plagued Lightyear.

Sadness, joy, disgust, fear, and anger react to riley's puberty alarm going off in disney/pixar's "inside out 2. "

As you probably could have guessed, this sequel follows the colorful emotions at the control panel of Minnesota-raised, San Francisco-relocated Riley Andersen (now voiced by Kensington Tallman) into her scary teenage years. A puberty alarm sounds and soon a demolition crew is overhauling the headquarters that Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale), and Disgust (Liza Lapira) call home. This premise, teased in the bonus feature short Riley’s First Date, gets the feature-length treatment here, although the movie largely backs away from considering Riley’s romantic awakening, instead opting to focus on her high school plans of getting separated from her heretofore unknown besties Bree and Grace while hoping to make the varsity hockey team that is captained by her local idol Valentina Ortiz (Lilimar).

If you’re looking to further the “go woke, go broke” narrative that Disney and Pixar detractors have been voicing with increased volume lately, you’ll notice some coded elements and the unmistakable attempt to incorporate diversity and representation into supporting characters. But the film is consistent with Iger’s spring remarks that Disney needs “to be an entertainment-first company.” Inside Out 2 succeeds as lively and colorful entertainment with no overt agenda or heavy-handed messaging.

As with most sequels that simply follow a logical narrative thread, Inside Out 2 does not offer anything to compete with or complement the high concept allure at the heart of the original and all four Docter-directed films (the others being Monsters Inc., Up, and Soul). But it is not lacking in any way as a direct result of that. Nothing matches the magic of Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong and the Train of Thought, but amusement is found in a “Sar Chasm” and a visit to Riley’s “Vault” where she keeps her secrets.

Newly-introduced emotions embarrassment, anxiety, envy, and ennui take over the controls inside riley andersen in pixar's "inside out 2. "

New arrivals to Riley’s emotional palette include the worrisome Anxiety (Maya Hawke), quiet, hoodie-wearing Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), and the blasé Ennui (Blue Is The Warmest Colour‘s Adèle Exarchopoulos), whom Joy nicknames “Weewee.” They’ve got their moments, but none of them will be cracking a Top Pixar Characters List anytime soon.

Those fond of the original characters will be troubled by the fact that Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling have relinquished voicing Fear and Disgust, respectively. Allegedly, lowball offers were given to the accomplished comedians who are plenty busy as showrunners of multiple television series. Recasting is an uncharacteristic move for Pixar, a studio that unearthed unused Don Rickles recordings to keep the comic voicing Mr. Potato Head posthumously in Toy Story 4 and chose Blake Clark, a close personal friend of Jim Varney’s, to take over the role of Slinky Dog after Varney passed. On the positive side, Inside Out 2 does let longtime Pixar “good luck charm” John Ratzenberger reprise the minor role of Fritz, reviving an alliance that saw Ratzenberger voice a character in every Pixar movie from the original Toy Story in 1995 through Onward in 2020.

Inside Out 2 eases our fears that Pixar, as we know it, is doomed. The core personnel may have been decimated with the ouster of John Lasseter and subsequent major departures. The priorities have evolved and clearly not for the better. But the studio here proves it is still capable of delighting viewers of all ages with stunning imagery and considerable wit. As Docter recently acknowledged (while shooting down a fan-demanded live-action remake of Ratatouille starring Josh O’Connor as Linguini), the company may just need to rely increasingly on the sequels it once bemoaned, as the economics of moviegoing are consistently being re-evaluated.

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