Review: ‘Inside Out 2,’ starring the voices of Amy Poehler, Maya Hawke, Kensington Tallman, Tony Hale, Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith, Ayo Edebiri and Paul Walter Hauser

June 14, 2024

by Carla Hay

Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith), Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Disgust (voiced by Liza Lapira), Fear (voiced by Tony Hale) and Anger (voice of Lewis Black) in “Inside Out 2” (Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar)

“Inside Out 2”

Directed by Kelsey Mann

Culture Representation: Taking place in the San Francisco Bay Area, the animated film “Inside Out 2” (a sequel to 2015’s “Inside Out” features a group of characters portraying emotions (inside a specific girl) and human beings.

Culture Clash: New emotions arrive inside a 13-year-old girl, and they clash with her previously existing emotions.

Culture Audience: “Inside Out” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners, the first “Inside Out” movie, and animated films about adolescence.

Embarrassment (voiced by Paul Walter Hauser), Anxiety (voiced by Maya Hawke), Envy (voiced by Ayo Edebiri) and Ennui (voiced by Adèle Exarchopoulos) in “Inside Out 2” (Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar)

Continuing the story that began in the 2015 Oscar-winning animated film “Inside Out” (about emotions that are characters inside a specific girl,) “Inside Out 2” is a worthy sequel in its amusing and touching story of emotions that often conflict with each other inside a 13-year-old girl. The voice cast performances and visuals are stellar, even if the overall plot has no real surprises. People of many generations can enjoy the film, but many of the jokes are best appreciated by people who know or who have experienced how puberty hormones and adolescence can change people’s moods.

Directed by Kelsey Mann and written by Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein, “Inside Out 2” is a combination of a familiar movie story of a teenage girl who is insecure about accepted by her peers and a race-against-time depiction of the girl’s inner emotions that are battling against each other. “Inside Out” was directed by Pete Docter, who co-wrote the “Inside Out” screenplay with Josh Cooley and LeFauve. The human protagonist in both movies is Riley Andersen. In “Inside Out,” Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is 11 years old. In “Inside Out 2,” Riley (voiced by Kensington Tallman) is 13 years old.

In the world of “Inside Out,” the Emotions are characters inside of Riley. The Emotions work inside the core of her being, which they call Headquarters, and they use a console board to control Riley’s feelings. In the first “Inside Out” movie, Riley’s emotions were in turmoil because Riley (who is an only child) and her unnamed parents (voiced by Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan, who both return for “Inside Out 2”) have moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, and Riley has problems adjusting to her new environment.

The Emotions in “Inside Out 2” are Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith), Disgust (voiced by Liza Lapira), Fear (voiced by Tony Hale, replacing Bill Hader, who had the role in “Inside Out”) and Anger (voice of Lewis Black). Joy is the unofficial leader of the group and the voiceover narrator for “Inside Out 2.” The main conflict in the story happens when new Emotions arrive and take over Headquarters, while the original Emotions strive to take back the control they originally had. The new Emotions are Anxiety (voiced by Maya Hawke), Embarrassment (voiced by Paul Walter Hauser), Envy (voiced by Ayo Edebiri) and Ennui (voiced by Adèle Exarchopoulos). Anxiety is the unofficial leader of these new emotions

In the beginning of “Inside Out 2” (which takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area), Riley is described as being a well-adjusted and happy teenager who is “still exceptional,” says Joy. Riley is intelligent, friendly, and obedient. She excels in academics and in her favorite sport: hockey. The opening scene shows Riley playing in a hockey game, where she is considered to be a star player. Soon afterward, Riley meets two other students who will become her best friends and hockey teammates: Grace (voiced by Grace Lu) and Bree (voiced by Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green), who have fairly generic personalities.

Riley, Grace and Bree are all looking forward to spending their summer vacation attending a hockey camp hosted by Bay Area High School, where the three girls plan to attend. Grace and Bree tell Riley some upsetting news before they go to the camp. Grace and Bree are transferring to another school in the fall. However, Grace and Bree are still enrolled in the hockey camp for the summer.

Riley is desperate to stand out and impress the camp’s no-nonsense and strict leader—Coach Roberts (voiced by Yvette Nicole Brown)—as well as the experienced hockey players at the camp. The varsity captain is Valentina “Val” Ortiz (voiced by Lilimar), an outgoing person who treats everyone with respect. Riley greatly admires Valentina and aspires to achieve the rare accomplishment that Valentina did: make the varsity team as a freshman classmate.

“Inside Out 2” has the expected scenarios that would churn up a teenager’s emotions under these circumstances. The movie depicts Riley being under pressure to win games, dealing with catty gossipers, and trying to fit in with the “cool kids.” Meanwhile, Joy deviates a little from her perpetually perky persona by having a little bit of a meltdown in a memorable scene.

“Inside Out 2” avoids a lot of pitfalls that many sequels make when several new characters are introduced. Because the Emotions characters have the same names as whatever feelings they represent, it’s very easy to not gets these characters confused. Hawke and Poehler are the standouts in the voice cast.

There’s an amusing cameo from an Emotion called Nostalgia (voiced by June Squibb), who is told that she needs to come back when Riley is older. Another new character is Deep Dark Secret (voiced Steve Purcell), who reveals his secret during the movie’s end credits. “Inside Out 2” goes exactly where you think it will go in the battle of the Emotions. It’s still a entertaining ride that has a lot of meaningful things to say (both serious and comedic) about humanity.

Walt Disney Pictures released “Inside Out 2” in U.S. cinemas on June 14, 2024.

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