‘Inside Out 2’ Review: A Film For The Parents Of Budding Teenagers

Source: Disney/Pixar

Jun. 18 2024, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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Disney released the sequel film in their Inside Out franchise, “Inside Out 2,” and teaches audiences the complexities of a young girl’s teenage mind as it begins puberty. In the original film, we meet the main character Riley Anderson and her five core emotions: Joy, voiced by Amy Pohler, Sadness, voiced by Phyllis Smith, Anger, voiced by Lewis Black, Disgust, originally voiced by Mindy Kailing and now Liza Lapira, and Fear, originally voiced by Bill Hader and now Tony Hale. Riley, originally voiced by Kaitlyn Dias and now Kensington Tallman, moves with her family from Minnesota to San Diego and learns to feel through the sadness this change brings rather than ignoring it to feel happy. 

Riley’s A Teenager

In “Inside Out 2,” Riley turns 13 and gets her first taste of teenage life. Riley plays hockey with her two best friends, Bree and Grace, and Coach Roberts, the high school hockey coach, personally invites them to her three day hockey camp. The night before camp, the puberty alarm goes off in Headquarters, Riley’s control center, and four new emotions move in: anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, envy, voiced by Ayo Edebiri, embarrassment, voiced by Paul Walter Hauser and ennui, voiced by Adèle Exarchopoulos. Anxiety helps prepare Riley for worst case scenarios, like when Riley learns that Bree and Grace won’t be going to the same high school as her in the fall. 

“I plan for the future,” says Anxiety.

Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness meet Anxiety for the first time in Riley's Headquarters in the movie "Inside Out 2"
Source: Disney/Pixar
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Riley’s Growing Up And Anxiety’s Moving In

Inside Out 2 illustrates Riley’s maturing brain. Her friendships now take precedence over her family, and the house of cards and Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong, that used to inhabit Imagination Land, Riley’s imagination, have been replaced with “Mount Crushmore,” the Mount Rushmore version of her crushes, and news blasts that her text messages have been released. Anxiety also infiltrates Riley’s house of cards and uses her projector to feed worst-case scenarios into her imagination.

Anxiety thinks she’s just doing what’s best for Riley. She feeds Riley with images of her friends abandoning her forever once they start high school and worries Riley into straying her once strong sense of self. Anxiety suppresses Riley’s original emotions so they can stray her from her childhood self. But in reality, Riley needs a mix of her old and new emotions to be a whole person.

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A Movie For Pre-Teens And Parents

Inside Out 2 serves as a roadmap for pre-teens and parents unsure of the changes to expect. Anxiety’s power leads Riley to ditch her best friends for the popular girl, Val, pretend she’s from Michigan, and convince her that she won’t have friends if she’s not good at hockey. To a teenager, things not going to plan feels unsurvivable. As we experience inconveniences, however, we learn to tap back into our foundational emotions to help us make the best decisions for ourselves. Riley experiences this as Anxiety pushes her to steal Coach Roberts’ notebook and Sadness makes her feel bad about it. 

“It’s not about who Riley is, it’s about who she needs to be,” says Anxiety.

Source: Pixar/Disney
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Inside Out 2 can help parents understand the mental changes happening with their children going through puberty, so they can gather the tools to best navigate it. For preteens, this film illustrates how dooming social anxieties exist mainly in our own mind.  

The Joy Of Growing Up

In the original Inside Out, Joy battles with Sadness to retain control of Riley’s emotions, only to learn that Riley needs her sad emotions. Similarly, Inside Out 2 shows Joy in a similar battle with Anxiety over who gets to control Riley’s emotions, core belief systems, and sense of self. Anxiety tries to keep Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear away from Headquarters while they fight for their way back in throughout the film. 

“You don’t get to choose who Riley is,” says Joy to Anxiety.

In their final face off, however, Joy realizes that she was also trying to choose who Riley is. Before Riley’s complex emotions arrived, Joy would choose which memories built out her core beliefs and which ones to let fall into the memory dump, the place for Riley’s forgotten memories. Joy learns that although Riley may experience less happiness as she grows up, she needs the good and the bad to grow into a well-rounded person. 

Inside Out 2 reminds viewers how our foundational and complex emotions work hand in hand for our survival. Anxiety raises our awareness to worst case scenarios, but when we default back to joy, we can find a way to ease our worries and self regulate. 

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Chinenye Onyeike HS
By: Chinenye Onyeike

Chinenye Onyeike is an NAACP and Webby Award winning producer. She currently works as an associate producer for The Daily Show podcasts and a Her Agenda contributor.

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