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REVIEW: 'Inside Out 2' has more emotions but is less emotional than the original

By ERIC CABAHUG Published Jun 14, 2024 9:58 pm

The good news: Inside Out 2 has twice as many emotions as the first film. The not-as-good news: The movie is far less involving. 

That’s not really a knock on the sequel. It’s just that the 2015 original set the bar for originality, imagination, creativity, and storytelling so high it may be literally impossible to reach any of its peaks.

Inside Out was indelible mainly because its concept and world-building—the inner workings of human emotions—was so never-before-seen singular, and not just for animated flicks but for all types of films. It’s the kind of movie magic that’s hard to replicate even by a studio as brilliant as Pixar. It has also been nine years since—a lifetime in cinema—and by now the film has become so familiar, not to mention some of its innovations regurgitated by other movies like The Emoji Movie.

Not that the Inside Out 2’s joys and wonders aren’t truly joyful and wonderful. Chief among these is Anxiety, one of the five new emotions now living inside Riley alongside Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear. 

This frizzy-haired, orange-colored character is where Pixar flexes its creative muscles for freshness the most in the movie. Rather than a dithering, quivering, cowering mess, the feeling is depicted as a sociable, confident, if not overeager, and energetic, if not hyperactive go-getter who’s not easily fazed, who always has a plan or two, and who has a firm grip on his/her wits, until he/she doesn’t (Unlike for the other characters, the film does not make it clear whether Anxiety is a boy or a girl or another gender). And even then he/she doesn’t become a mumbling blob of defeated sweat. 

Anxiety fits snugly into Riley’s big new world as a debuting teenager where this is one of the overriding emotions for many. It often debilitates which leads to more negative feelings and this is where the beauty, if not genius, of the movie’s revisionist take lies: the emotion is depicted mostly in a positive light and yet it also stands practically as the film’s villain when Anxiety literally vanishes Joy and the original crew to gain full, uncontested control of Riley’s HQ. But it’s done not out of nefarious designs: he/she sincerely wants only what’s good for Riley, as do the rest of them. Who can blame him/her when he/she is the one who has the most well thought-out plans among the bunch? 

Anxiety’s regret upon realizing the damage he/she has done is one of the film’s most poignant moments but it doesn’t really hold a candle to Joy’s mini-existential crisis midway through the film. “I guess that’s what happens when you grow up — you feel less joy,” she muses, rather Sad-ly, Toy Story-ly. It’s already the most quoted and memed line from the movie. 

The line probably will give more of the feels to adult viewers as would the French-accented Ennui emotion and granny Nostalgia. The entire storyline, too, likely resonates more with audiences of Riley’s age in this film. Parents and kids need not fret, though. Inside Out 2 arguably has even more delights for the crowd of Riley’s age in the first film than the first film does, notably the gleeful references to educational kiddie television shows. Pouchy, in particular, will most likely end up having its own educational series on Disney+. That’s one more potential good news to feel happy about.