New Emotions Emote from "Inside Out 2"

Inside Out 2

Director: Kelsey Mann
Studio: Pixar Animation
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: PG (For mild thematic elements and some action)

We've all been that kid/teen/college student who is sitting down with one of their parents, asking them the question "When did you figure your life out." Every single time, without hesitation, said parent will reply "I'm still figuring my life out." It is a harsh reality that none of us truly ever have our lives figured out. We may have less chaotic years compared to others, but life is always throwing us curve balls and we can never truly prepare for any of it. I bring this up now because one of the primary reactions to Pixar's "Inside Out 2" (directed by Kelsey Mann, who is taking over from Pete Doctor) is that the movie seems like a rehash of the previous film.

Yes, the original "Inside Out" is a certifiable masterpiece; poetic and touching, with a screenplay that spoke to the audience's soul, it was always going to be a tough act to follow. Does the sequel treading similar ground make the film a lesser movie? From my perspective, it does not, because...well, if my dad is to be believed, he's still trying to figure his life out (and he retired seven years ago). In this film, we catch up with Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear, and Disgust as they continue to steer their human girl Riley through the ups and downs of life.

There is an incoming threat to the emotions though: a teenager who is about to go through puberty. This means the body is changing, the emotions console just doesn't work the same way it did before, and new emotions arrive in the form of Embarrassment, Envy, Ennui (hah), and Anxiety. The problem is, new emotions can be messy, and Anxiety in particular is eager to gain control of the console board. So what is her solution? Why, bottle up the old emotions (ho ho) and try to protect Riley by inserting every potential bad outcome to her.

In this sense, Anxiety is the villain of the film (something I can't say I was expecting out of a sequel to "Inside Out"). This decision came under fire from mental health advocates who worried that such a depiction would stigmatize people with anxiety attacks and mental illness even more. These people need not have worried, as while the movie ultimately ends with the emotions learning to calm Anxiety down and only worrying about what can be controlled (as opposed to things that are out of our hands), it is a very valid lesson to teach children that anxiety that consumes you can be a big detriment to your life.

If the first film beautifully portrayed what clinical depression looked like in your head, then Pixar has created the perfect visuals for what goes through one's mind if they are having a panic attack. I believe this portrayal of Anxiety is going to help viewers understand people with mental illness more than it will stigmatize them. "Inside Out 2" does exactly what great art does: it gives us a chance to walk in someone else's shoes and see things from a new perspective. Of course, if this were an educational video, that alone wouldn't make it worth watching. 

Thankfully, "Inside Out 2" is also very entertaining, giving both kids and adults new gags and surprises to have fun with. Story-wise, this may be the most necessary sequel since "Toy Story 2," and it reminds viewers of the maturity that Pixar films are capable of (yes, "Turning Red," "Soul," and "Elemental" did this as well,, we can't be reminded too many times of this). No, it's not as good as the previous movie, but is life itself not worth living if the current year isn't as high as the previous year? A touching journey is still a touching journey, and this is certainly the smartest family film that is currently in theaters. Even if the movie questions if people experience less joy as they get older, this movie delivers much joy to the audience itself!