Inside Out 2 – Review

Worth seeing: as a natural development of Inside Out's internalisation of the conflicting emotions of growing up
Director:Kelsey Mann
Featuring:Amy Poehler, Kensington Tallman, Maya Hawke, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Ayo Edebiri, Diane Lane, Grace Lu, James Austin Johnson, Kyle MacLachlan, Lewis Black, Lilimar, Liza Lapira, Paul Walter Hauser, Phyllis Smith, Ron Funches, Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green, Tony Hale, Yvette Nicole Brown
Length:96 minutes
Released:14th June 2024


We last met Riley (Kensington Tallman) in Inside Out; she was 11 years old and coming to terms with moving to a new city.

Now aged 13, she’s about to move up to high school and is desperate to get onto the ice hockey team, but when she finds out that her two best friends are going to a different school, she’s torn between hanging out with them at a training weekend – or getting in with the members of the team she’s hoping to join.

As in Inside Out, much of the story is told from inside Riley’s head as her competing emotions fight over what she should do. On the “outside,” we see teams of ice-hockey players  battling it out on the ice – while inside, it’s teams of emotions, as those we met in the first film – led by Joy (Amy Poehler) are challenged by emotions brought on by puberty – with Anxiety (Maya Hawke) taking the lead.

The more complex teenaged emotions – including envy, embarrassment and ennui – manage to confine the childhood emotions to the back of Riley’s mind as they try to prepare her for the challenges posed by adolescence, but Joy and her team are determined to stop Riley’s formative years being driven by anxiety.


Inside Out 2 is a fitting follow-up to Inside Out, with its pubescent protagonist having more complex challenges to consider, driven by more nuanced emotions.

Some of the “emotions” work better than others – we can all identify with anxiety and ennui is certainly something that will ring true with anyone with older children – but embarrassment and envy weren’t particularly emotions that drove this particular narrative. And the way the emotions are presented aren’t always consistent with what they’re being used to portray.

The main themes are worth exploring – the tension between looking ahead to your future and keeping old friendships strong – but this element of the story-telling felt somewhat shallow, as Riley’s internal turmoil is playing out not through real child psychology, but through funny shaped, multicoloured cartoon characters exploring new areas of a brain, filled with marble-like memories, an an effort to help her find her “sense of self” – a rather peculiar and ill-defined maguffin.

The style and quality of the animation is largely similar to those of the original, but there is one character who – neatly – plays out in 2D animation, but there are some areas where the backgrounds are so realistic, it’s almost distracting as you find yourself wondering whether you’re even watching an animation at all.

Anxiety is very much presented as the villain of the piece – setting up adolescence as being an internal conflict between joy and anxiety – which is clearly simplistic – but that’s where this film has a bit of an identity crisis – it’s trying to be simplistic and complex – it’s trying to appeal to children and to adults – and probably falls somewhere in the middle.

It’s hard, at times, to work out who this is really aimed at. The central character is now 13 and many of the themes will go over the heads of children of this age and younger – but it’s not profound enough to satisfy adults.

Inside Out 2 is certainly thought provoking and, in its own way, is a bold and exciting action adventure and a moving coming-of-age drama, but the action inside Riley’s head doesn’t really feel like it’s driving the action outside, making it feel more like a gimmick than a coherent and profound examination of the internal conflicts of growing up.