June 10, 2024

REEL | Animated Anxieties – Pixar Flips Its Emotions 'Inside Out 2'

"There's a lid for every pot."
Amy Poehler Phyllis Smith Kelsey Mann | Inside Out 2 | Pixar Animation
Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios
Pixar and first-time director Kelsey Mann revisit unpredictable childhood emotions in their thoughtful animated sequel, Inside Out 2. Where the first Inside Out originally tracked the changing brain of a pre-teen girl, its follow-up nine years later further highlights the range of crippling oncoming anxieties on the precipice of full-blown puberty.

Comedian Amy Poehler returns to voice the lead emotion, Joy, as an unfortunately fading presence in the thirteen-year-old Riley. New emotions come with new adolescent feelings and hormones, voiced by the perfectly cast Maya Hawke as Anxiety, Ayo Edebiri as Envy, and an extra droll Adèle Exarchopoulos as Ennui. While Mann's depiction of anxiety and panic attacks is truly harrowing, the animated embodiment of both Anxiety the character and feeling are not as nearly as nuanced as Poehler's Joy in conception and execution.

Hawke's Anxiety rushedly becomes overbearing and misguided without much room to learn and grow. It's hard to watch her lead Riley down a dark, deceptive path by isolating her friends and currying favour with older, more mature girls. No matter how true to life in animated form, the chaotic war between emotions almost makes the chief anxious character a full-blown villain threatening to ruin Riley's young life. However, Inside Out 2 ultimately culminates in a fantastic series of emotional resolutions, both internally in the teenage girl's mind and in reality as she starts ninth grade.

Inside Out 2 continues the original's complex exploration of human emotions from a young mind's perspective quite fluidly. Scripted by Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein, the sequel cleverly expands the humour and horrors of just existing as a young girl while not entirely filling out the feelings of anxiety, envy, ennui, and embarrassment. It never reaches the same highs but provides another heart-wrenching depiction of growing up. However, its depiction of a junior ice hockey team scrimmage and tryout is completely unhinged.

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