Keith’s Movie Korner: ‘Inside Out 2’ is complexly emotional and entertaining

By Keith Walther | Rose Law Group Reporter

After recent struggles to recapture animation magic, Disney’s Pixar returns with a sequel to one of its most celebrated films. “Inside Out 2” follows the tried-and-true formula of its predecessor while introducing more complicated emotions that coincide with puberty. Even though this sequel arrives nine years after the original, it is set 2 years later with a story that is well conceived and executed, incorporating the colorfully amusing emotions audiences grew to love and some new emotions that people will find very relatable.

For the past couple of years, Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale), and Disgust (Liza Lapira) have successfully managed the control board of their girl, creating many positive memories that help to form a central belief system. Riley (Kensington Tallman) is a teenager now, however, and with the advent of puberty comes a wave of new emotions that her old emotions are ill prepared to handle. An internal power struggle ensues, with Anxiety (Maya Hawke) wrestling control of Riley’s mind away from Joy.

With Anxiety now in power along with her sidekicks Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (Adele Exarchopoulos), and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Riley’s core belief system is upended, and she struggles to navigate adolescence. Torn between wanting to maintain her existing friendships while desperately trying to fit in with potentially new hockey teammates, Riley’s anxiety slowly builds into a force that threatens to overwhelm her and cause her to lose herself and everything she holds dear. It’s up to Joy and the gang to try and right the ship and regain control before it’s too late.

This is the directorial debut of Kelsey Mann, who also helped co-write the screenplay. In fact, she did not work in any capacity on the first film, and there are noticeable differences in directorial style that illustrate her inexperience. For instance, there are obvious plot holes like when the parents’ emotions are shown to have the basic five for most the film when it would make more sense for them to have a wide range of developed emotions that come with age. While Kelsey does a fine job of focusing on the complex, unbridled sway of emotions that exist in teenagers going through puberty, she misses an opportunity to delve deeper into that roller coaster of feelings, only scratching the surface. It also lacks the emphasis on the musical accompaniment that the first movie achieves so well, preventing viewers from experiencing that same emotional connection.

However, Kelsey Mann successfully steers “Inside Out 2” down an entertaining path of relatability that is well-paced and thoughtful. It may not be as amusing as the original, but there are comedic moments throughout that keep a steady flow of chuckles coming from the audience. She even includes scenes referencing “Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse” many parents and children alike will find funny and appealing. Most importantly, Mann captures the messaging of the story that people ranging in age from pre-teens to deep into adulthood will find impactful and thought provoking.

Many of the original voice cast returns for this sequel like Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, and Phyllis Smith, and they once again infuse life into their characters, but there are noticeable changes that detract from the overall quality, such as Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling not returning due to disputes over pay. The good news is that newcomers Maya Hawke (Ethan Hawke’s daughter) and Ayo Edebiri do an outstanding job of emulating their respective emotion characters of Anxiety and Envy.

There may not be a scene equal to the emotional impact of Bing Bong from the first film, but “Inside Out 2” is a worthy sequel that proves Disney/Pixar can still produce quality animation with powerful messaging. Since it does showcase a more complicated array of emotional intelligence, it may not connect as well with younger children, but it’s still a solid investment for families looking to escape the heat for a couple hours. With a domestic opening weekend of over $150 million, this looks to be a safe bet as the early summer box office winner.

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June 2024