Follows Riley, in her teenage years, encountering new emotions.

Pam says:

The much-anticipated sequel to “Inside Out” has arrived!  “Inside Out 2” picks up in Riley’s life just as she’s turning 13 years old.  We get reacquainted with the emotions inside her head, Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith), Fear (voiced by Tony Hale), Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (Liza Lapira), and lead by none other than Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler).  Things seem pretty normal at central control as Joy puts any unpleasantries aka bad memories waaaayyyy back in Riley’s mind where she needn’t dwell on them.

Riley is honing her hockey skills with the help of besties Grace (voiced by Grace Lu) and Bree (voiced by Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green) as they get an opportunity to go to a hockey camp with the high school girls captained by Val (voiced by Lilimar).  The night before the big trip to the weekend camp, there’s an alarm that sounds at central control…PUBERTY!

In comes the demolition crew as a new group of emotions takes over the control panel: Envy (voiced by Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (voiced by Adele Exarchopoulos), Embarrassment (voiced by Paul Walter Hauser), and at the helm is Anxiety (voiced by Maya Hawke) who vies for lead position much to Joy’s chagrin.  Anxiety takes over as she ousts the original five emotions in an attempt to create a much different and more complex Riley.  Joy and crew must find a way to get Riley back to being true self, but not before Riley finds herself in awkward and difficult situations that will affect her coming years in high school and even her friendships.

“Inside Out 2” is brilliant as it delves into the mind of a teenager; a scary place that is explained and understood better than any textbook out there!  With vivid imagery and representation, Riley goes through awkward and embarrassing moments as she questions her identity in an attempt to be accepted in this new group.  We understand her past memories and how these have impacted her sense of self as well as how these new and yet to be controlled emotions sometimes get the better of her.

As with many Pixar movies, it’s meant for those tweens, teens and adults.  As I watched the changes in Riley, I looked back on my own uncomfortable years as a teenager as well as my daughter’s life during that time period.  And, to be honest, much of what happens in this film also hits home now with the mind games we all play and never admit!  We all worry about how we are perceived and allow envy, anxiety, or even ennui get to us or even take over.

Writers Dave Holstein and Meg LeFauve intelligently delve into social emotional issues as well as mental health  while making it fun, funny and relatable.  With its predecessor, we were given the building blocks of how the brain works and how emotions affect our memories.  Now, with “Inside Out 2,” we build on that foundation to better understand our children and ourselves.  Of course, the director, Kelsey Mann, intuitively and skillfully gives life to our characters, voiced by equally talented actors.  Poehler’s Joy finds that it’s not easy always being positive, and Phyllis Smith is a hoot as Sadness as she finds her inner strength.  In fact, all of the characters learn a little about themselves and each other which — you guessed it — allows Riley to be more in touch with who she is as well.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t call to attention the animation of “Inside Out 2.”  It’s vivid and captivating as it paints a clear picture of what the writers are attempting to communicate.  Characters like “Pouchy” and “Nostalgia” as well as the Subconscious Guards and Deep Secrets pique your interest to hope that there’s an “Inside Out 3 and 4”!

This is summer’s “must see” movie; especially for parents and tweens and teens as it’ll spark a conversation and perhaps even help kids understand what’s happening at this very tumultuous time in their lives.

4 Stars


Chuck says:

What has made the Pixar films the gold standard of modern animation is their ability to not only dazzle us with their imaginative visuals and tickle our funny bones with their unique characters, but their ability to push us towards introspection. As much for adults as children, “Toy Story,” “Monsters Inc,” “Finding Nemo” and others illicit vivid memories of childhood that, reflected upon after the passage of years, provide the older viewer not simply with a sense of poignant nostalgia, but meaningful reflection regarding who we were and who we’ve become.

“Inside Out 2” achieves this and is one of the best of the studio’s efforts, a film that doesn’t feel like a sequel but rather a natural continuation of the examination of one young girl’s life. Charming, smart and inventive, director Kelsey Mann has constructed a movie that’s engaging from start to finish, exploring not only the awkward, humorous aspects of adolescent but also the confusion and turmoil that comes with this, at times, traumatic change.

Having adjusted to her family’s move to San Francisco, Riley (voice by Kensington Tallman) is living a full and active life. She excels in school, is empathetic towards others, repeatedly makes her parents proud and excels at hockey with her two besties Grace and Brie (Grace Lu and Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green). Big things are happening as the trio are invited to an exclusive hockey camp where they hope to impress the high school coach.  Problem is, Riley is told that her friends will be attending a different school than she in the fall.

Compounding the turmoil of this life-altering revelation is the fact that Riley is now beginning puberty. The well-run emotional center in her brain, manned by Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Tony Hale), and Disgust (Liza Lapira) has been razed, literally, by the arrival of Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Ennui (Adele Exarchopoulos), and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser).

As expected, this transition is not a smooth one. The emotions immediately clash resulting in violent mood swings for Riley, just when she needs to keep her composure among a group of peers she wants to impress. Her original sense of self has been destroyed and sent to the back of her mind, where the original five emotions travel in an effort to restore the emotional center, they’ve worked so hard to create.

The imagination on display is astounding, as the animators take abstract concepts and bring them to life. Joy and her cohorts travel on the stream of consciousness, which contains an everchanging collection of objects depending on what Riley is thinking of. Equally fun is a brainstorm they must endure, as they must dodge lightbulbs of different sorts, as our heroine is furiously trying to find come up with a solution to a pressing problem. Touches like these, and many more, are a tribute to screenwriters Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein as well as the army of animators at their disposal. Innovative and clever, the film astounds at every turn with the inventive ways in which myriad emotions are brought to life.

Yet, the most important aspect of the movie is how relatable they make Riley’s troubles. There’s a universal quality in the way her trials are presented, a sense of empathy felt for her every step of the way. The issue of mental health and the stigma surrounding seeking help to maintain it are front of mind now, a crisis millions of teens grapple with.  If nothing else, “Inside Out 2” is an important tool in helping tweens realize they are not alone in their struggles. Mann and company have created a vital tool to facilitate discussion regarding these issues, a contribution that cannot be overstated.

As such, the movie transcends its genre conventions, a film that is so much more than a simple entertainment. A conversation-starter for parents and their children, Pixar has created a timeless, instant classic. “Inside Out 2” poignantly reflects on all the things that make us who we are, brilliantly underscoring that we are the sum of all our emotions, both good and bad. In the end, reminding us that accepting ourselves for who we are – both the good and not so good aspects of our personality – is its greatest gift.

4 Stars

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