Thursday 20 June 2024

Movie Review - Inside Out 2

After a brief slump in their overall quality of films, Pixar's Inside Out was certainly a return to form for the iconic studio following its release in 2015, telling a beautiful story which deftly blended humour and honest emotional depth within a unique premise full of loveable characters. While the film didn't end with any definitive need for a sequel, the idea of one was always welcome considering how much more could be done with the material at hand; new emotions, new hurdles in life, the works. Nearly a decade later, Pixar have of course taken advantage of this and brought us Inside Out 2, an entertaining animated adventure within what many critics deem to be another slump for the historically acclaimed studio. 

Taking place three years after the original, Riley Anderson (Kensington Tallman) faces new challenges in life as she enters her pubescent teenaged years, with her original five emotions of Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale) and Disgust (Liza Lapira) being driven out of headquarters by the overly paranoid Anxiety (Maya Hawke), joined by a cluster of teenage struggles including Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (basically boredom, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser). Riley's quality of life begins to decline as a result, leading Joy and the other core emotions on a journey to save the girl they helm and love before its too late.

It goes without saying that Inside Out 2 is a visual treat, with animation just as gorgeous as its predecessor. It still boasts the same charming, colourful art style, though is somewhat darker this time to align with the more troubling themes. Said art style is then brought to life with beautifully rendered landscapes and characters, joined by strong vocal performances from the majority of the original cast and several newcomers, notably Hawke and Tallman in their roles as Anxiety and the teenaged Riley respectively. Pretty much everything when it comes to the visual and sound design side is spot on, even if Andrea Datzman's score is perhaps less memorable than Michael Giacchino's music from the original.

With Riley entering her teenaged years and thus coping with a new range of emotions that such youths will struggle with when growing up, Inside Out 2 of course explores some strong themes, with Anxiety and her core actions and motives certainly being at the centre of all this. Riley coping with these clashing emotions as she grows up is something audiences of all ages can certainly relate to, with some perhaps even more touched by Riley's struggles and Anxiety's influence depending on their own experience with such emotions, making this a film that has a deep core message that's also very flexible in its impact depending on the viewer. That said, this is still a film that knows when to cut back on the drama and embrace humour and charm, offering plenty of laughs approachable for a family audience.

But while Inside Out 2 has an emotional impact, it doesn't quite carry the same powerful tone of its predecessor, which at times left me genuinely tearful. This time round things can be sad, but aren't too heart wrenching, and it's fair to say that Anxiety is really the only one of the new emotions that most will remember; Envy, Ennui and Embarrassment don't have much of a, well, personality, and sometimes serve little purpose beyond being the subject of jokes which parody teenage livelihood. Perhaps the strongest emotional punch, however, comes with the film's ending, which I shan't spoil but will certainly commend for being poignant and thoughtful, and for addressing the influence Riley's emotional personas actually have on her actions and feelings in life in a way the original never even did. With all that said, Inside Out 2 finds itself being a worthy sequel to one of Pixar's best films, and enjoyable watch from start to finish.