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Inside Out 2: Nostalgia-Bait Or Pixar’s Great Return

Inside Out 2 might just be Pixar’s return to being one of the greatest studios for family-friendly movies.

After a slew of disappointments at the box office, Inside Out 2 is shaping up to be an unexpectedly fantastic film for Pixar fans. As the audience for the original Inside Out grow up, nostalgia for their childhood increases. But with that nostalgia comes worries that this is could be all Inside Out 2 has to offer.

I couldn’t be the only person who saw the trailers and thought to themselves, what even is Ennui? But audiences everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief, the classic heart-jerking Pixar films are back.

Since the pandemic shut down theaters in 2020, fans have been underwhelmed by recent films from Pixar studios. An obvious example is Lightyear and Elemental debuted with 50.5 and 29.6 million dollars respectively. In contrast Inside Out 2 is predicted to have a debut weekend anywhere between 80 and 90 million. This massive gap can’t simply be chalked up to the pandemic, as Elemental came out just last year. Rather, audiences have simply been choosing not to go to a film that doesn’t interest them. Inside Out 2 breaks this pattern with an emotionally compelling narrative that speaks to audiences young and old.

Inside Out 2 follows Riley from the original movie, who is now thirteen and facing puberty. Having gone through that myself, I can safely say it is not a good time and that the movie portrayed that change beautifully. Riley goes away for a weekend Hockey skills camp and navigates conflicting feelings surrounding friendship, identity, and growing-up. Of course, with Riley’s burgeoning adolescence new emotions materialize for her to deal with. Anxiety, voiced by Stranger Things star Maya Hawke, steals the show as the overthinking leader of the new emotions. Envy, the seeming sidekick to Anxiety who is adorable as she is tiny, is played by Ayo Edibiri. Ennui, or rather boredom, often comes to save the day in all her bored French glory, is brought to life by Adèle Exarchopoulos. And although Embarassment is shy, his sweet soft self is brought to us by Paul Walter Hausser.

A stilt from the Pixar film Inside Out 2.
The emotions left to right: Sadness, Anger, Joy, Embarrassment, Anxiety, Envy, Ennui, Fear, and Disgust. Credit: Disney / Pixar

My Honest Review

Admittedly, stepping into the theater I did not have high expectations. For the past few years seeing flop after flop from Pixar did not inspire confidence. And the previews consisting of nothing but sequels and remakes did not help. But admittedly, Inside Out 2 blew me away in the first few minutes. The opening montage showing how Riley had grown as a person from the first movie really touched my heart. Amongst others, when Inside Out came out in 2015 puberty was only a few years away. So seeing Riley at that very age felt incredibly sentimental and real in a way most films don’t capture. By the time she was scoring a goal for her team, I was close to crying happy tears.

The bulk of the film takes place during a three-day hockey skills camp. Riley is incredibly excited when the unthinkable happens, the night before camp starts Riley enters the first stage of puberty, all at once introducing several new emotions to headquarters. The primary emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust) meet Riley’s newer “more sophisticated” emotions (Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment, and Ennui) who’s primary purpose is to help get Riley through this new stage of life.

Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness meet Anxiety. Credit: Disney/Pixar

However, these new emotions take-over and literally bottle up the original crew, kickstarting the plot of Joy and the gang trying to get back to headquarters to stop Anxiety from taking over Riley’s life. Inside Out’s nature makes what would be the metaphor, in any other Pixar story, the main plot. But being on the nose does not diminish the emotional impact. I deeply related to Anxiety taking over Riley’s mind, making her change everything about herself, just to feel like she fits in. I feel like the newly introduced value system, or self perception system, really highlights the extreme and heartbreaking changes that she goes through.

At the beginning of the movie, the core of Riley’s identity was that she was a good person. She was honest, a good friend, a team player, creative, silly, and loved her family. But when Anxiety took over and ruled over all of her decisions, slowly her idea about herself began to change. When Riley finally has a new version of herself built under the guidance of Anxiety the result is tearjerking.

In the climax of the film the audience hears Riley’s voice echo in her head in a strangled cry “I’m not good enough” over and over and over again. I can confidently say that in that moment I was not the only one in the theater crying. That scene in particular moved me so much because that is exactly how I and many others remembered feeling at thirteen. But thankfully the movie ends on a high-note, with Riley beginning to discover who she is, and how that self does not have to be so one dimensional.

So…Flop or Bop?

Embarrassment, Envy, Disgust, Fear, and Anger congratulate Anxiety.
Credit: Disney / Pixar

Inside Out 2 has been my absolute favorite movie to come out of Pixar, and even Disney, from the past few years. I went into this expecting another poorly thought-out cash grab, and left incredibly happy about the entire experience. This movie absolutely nailed so much about the experience of entering adolescence in a moving yet concise manner. Riley struggling with friendships, hormones, mental health (thanks Anxiety!), and the pressures that come from entering high school are incredibly relatable. I also had to go to a different high school from my middle school friends and spent months paranoid that I would be all alone.

Beyond being a realistic portrayal of adolescence, it is hopeful as well. Riley’s life was not over because she didn’t do well during the skills camp, she didn’t lose touch with her friends, and she did manage to make friends in high school all by being herself. Inside Out 2 was not only a beautiful nostalgic film for the older members of the audience, but a optimistic allegory to tell younger fans that everything is going to be alright, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

Written By

Madison is an intern at TrillMag and a second-year student at Stevens Institute of Technology. She is getting her undergraduate degree in Literature.

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