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‘Inside Out 2’ is a Hilarious Roller Coaster Ride Through the Mind of a Teenager

‘Inside Out 2’ is a Hilarious Roller Coaster Ride Through the Mind of a Teenager

  • Although the original "Inside Out" will remain my all-time favorite, "Inside Out 2" is a heartwarming sequel that proves sometimes the best way to handle life’s ups and downs.

On Sunday, I went to see Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” at the Cinemark theaters in East Bay. Directed by Kelsey Mann, and produced by Mark Nielsen with a brilliant screenplay written by Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein, it promises to be delightful! It was almost 100 degrees, and escaping into the air-conditioned theater with reclining seats was a treat. As the movie began, we dug into our bucket of popcorn with the sweet anticipation of revisiting the dream team from Pixar’s 2015 hit “Inside Out.” My daughter had warned me to expect new emotions!

As we entered the bustling mindscape of young Riley, now a teenager, we were happy to see that she had made two friends. The trio was selected for a hockey camp by their school coach, and we settled into our seats for some PG fun. However, “Inside Out 2” was not smooth sailing. Riley’s weekend getaway was disrupted by the appearance of a small pimple and a not-so-insignificant tsunami of puberty. Directed by Kelsey Mann, this coming-of-age animated film is an emotional roller coaster, creating a frenetic tug-of-war between established core emotions and confusing new ones. This surge of unfamiliar feelings causes Riley to transform into a stranger to herself, her friends, her teachers, and her parents.


Two years after her move to San Francisco, Riley, now 13, is about to enter high school. With a new decorated element called “Sense of Self” to manage, her core emotions – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust – have their work cut out for them. But just when you think things couldn’t get crazier, a “Puberty Alarm” goes off, causing the exhausted mind workers to accidentally upgrade her emotion console. This leads to the entry of new emotions: Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment, and Ennui. Chaos ensues!

The new emotions immediately shake things up. Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, is the star of the show, a frenzied muppet-like character with big bulging eyeballs, a plastered face-splitting grin, and a fountain of frizzy orange hair. She is determined to make Riley fit in and succeed. Her intentions are good, but the results are not, with a little too much fervor revved up by endless rounds of caffeinated drinks. The sweet-faced, twinkly-eyed Joy wants Riley to have fun at ice hockey camp, but Anxiety insists on turning Riley into a hyper-competitive wannabe. Wanting to fit in with the cool kids, score every goal, and be included in every conversation, Riley adopts a red streak in her hair and a mean attitude to boot. The ensuing battle of senses is hilarious but also sadly relatable to the turbulent teen years, much to the dismay of those around her.

It was heart-rending to watch Anxiety dump Riley’s Sense of Self of “being a good person” to the back of her mind while turning the console into a stress-fueled carnival ride.

Emotional Mayhem

Anxiety’s efforts to “help” Riley by making her obsess over fitting in with the popular crowd, particularly with the hockey star Val Ortiz, lead to a series of misadventures. When Anxiety traps the old emotions and starts running the show with her newfound buddies, it’s a riot. Watching the laborious efforts of Joy, Sadness, and Anger plotting their escape from the memory vault is like watching a bunch of trusted babysitters save their ward from a Godzilla by hook or by crook.

The scene where Riley, under Anxiety’s influence, sneaks into Coach Roberts’ office, only to face an epic meltdown, is well thought out and makes viewers remember every teenage moment when they almost crossed the line between right and wrong. And just when you think it can’t get any zanier, Anxiety, in a fit of panic, swarms the console during a crucial game, sending Riley into a full-blown panic attack. The frantic whirlwind of Anxiety trying to control Riley is like watching a hyperactive puppy on a thousand shots of espresso.

I loved the millions of projections, Riley’s mind spinning out, the ideas pelting out of her mind in a brainstorm, and the literal stream of consciousness where emotions bob up and down on slices of cheese pizza or a broccoli boat. Joy’s idea of not giving up and selecting Sadness to rescue Riley’s sense of self was an excellent ploy. No one would have thought of Sadness as being so over-informed and meticulous, but after all, sadness is joy turned inside out. Anger is quite hilarious with his new friend “Pouchy,” and Embarrassment, who blushes pink at the slightest provocation, is endearing.

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Joy (Amy Poehler) and her team’s struggle to wrestle back control and restore balance is both heartwarming and hysterical. The avalanche of crystal balls of bad memories they unleash to return to Headquarters is a brilliant slapstick moment. Watching them spill back into the console with a flood of embarrassing and awkward memories is a delightful reminder of the first film’s charm. They almost fall off into deep doldrums only to be rescued by Fear’s parachute. I smiled at that. It does not hurt to have a little fear to avert failure.

A New Sense of Self

The emotional climax, where Joy and Anxiety finally make peace, is as touching as it is funny. Joy’s realization that a new, more complex Sense of Self can only form by embracing both positive and negative experiences is a poignant reminder that growing up means accepting every part of ourselves, even the anxious, envious, bored, and embarrassed bits.

“Inside Out 2” is a hilarious roller coaster ride through the mind of a teenager. With Anxiety leading the charge, the film captures the hilarity and heartache of adolescence in a way that only Pixar can. The tension of Riley’s emotions, old and new, is at times difficult to watch, but the message “Inside Out 2” has to offer makes this film a must-see for fans of the original and newcomers alike. Whether you’re laughing at Anxiety’s over-the-top attempts to “improve” Riley or cheering on Joy and her crew’s efforts to restore sanity, “Inside Out 2” is a delightful exploration of the emotional chaos that is growing up.

Although the original “Inside Out” will remain my all-time favorite, “Inside Out 2” is a heartwarming sequel that proves sometimes the best way to handle life’s ups and downs is with a good laugh. By the way, there are plenty of memes of the character Anxiety on Instagram and I am sure there are more in the making!

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