Inside Out 2 review: "Pixar's sassy sequel will take you on a Joy ride"

Inside Out 2
(Image: © Disney/Pixar)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Handsome, warm, and engaging, though less inventive than the original, this sassy sequel will take you on a Joy ride.

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It’s high stakes and high pressure all round for the long-anticipated, much-speculated-on Inside Out 2. Off-screen, Pixar’s smart, big-hearted sequel must square up to its Oscar-winning, $859m-grossing 2015 predecessor and rescue 2024’s so-far dismal summer box office. On-screen, puberty-rocked Riley (Kensington Tallman) needs to ace her ice hockey training camp or face relegation to high-school social Siberia…

First-time feature director Kelsey Mann sets off a fierce battle in 13-year-old Riley’s mind when the Puberty Alarm upends Joy (a bouncy Amy Poehler) and her regular cohorts’ best efforts. The gang must make way for new Emotions in Mind HQ: fast-talking Anxiety (a gloriously rattling Maya Hawke), sneaky Envy (Ayo Edibiri), scornful Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and near-silent Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser). 

Swiftly cranking up the pace, ambitious Anxiety makes Riley dump her old besties, as she goes full-tilt for a first-year place on the Firehawks team. Suddenly the story slides into an All About Eve-style takeover tale, as Joy, Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Liza Lapira) and Fear (Tony Hale) are forcibly banished into the gloomy Memory Vault, while Anxiety’s volleys of worries force Riley into wild new behavior to impress older teammates and the tough team coach. 

Mann skillfully expands Riley’s world with subtle tweaks like a wider screen ratio (a story supervisor on the likes of Monsters University and Onward, he’s got the Pixar house style down pat), while shaking it up with a jittery handheld camera symbolizing Anxiety’s influence, which sets the film’s nervy tone nicely. 

Riley’s screen time expands too, as she scrambles painfully and relatably through social gaffes, hockey-match rampages and some bad midnight choices. As the story zings between Riley’s scrapes and Joy’s struggles, Riley becomes a satisfying character, not just a setting. Meanwhile, Joy feels worriedly parental this time, gamely taking on Anxiety’s fear-fantasy factory, plunging her pals into the food-packed Stream of Consciousness and across the hilarious Sar-Chasm that Ennui creates. 

Keeping the laughs-to-lessons ratio balanced, this clever, gorgeously rendered film is nonetheless lighter on emotional heft than Inside Out, its new characters mostly one-trait wonders (nothing here has the punch of Bing Bong’s big sacrifice). Still, it’s a genuinely compassionate comedy, full of cringingly funny teen trials. 

Alongside Turning Red and Orion and the Dark, Inside Out 2 offers a timely reflection of the anxiety epidemic among kids. If it doesn’t have the sparkling originality of its predecessor, it has its big heart, keen to show us how complex and gloriously messy teens can be.

Inside Out 2 is released in UK cinemas on June 14. 

For more, check out our guide to the best Pixar movies, ranked.

Freelance Writer

Kate is a freelance film journalist and critic. Her bylines have appeared online and in print for GamesRadar, Total Film, the BFI, Sight & Sounds, and