Inside Out 2: The BRWC Review

Inside Out 2: The BRWC Review

Inside Out 2: The BRWC Review. By Christopher Patterson.

A Fun, Sometimes Enjoyable, But Exhaustively Lazy Popcorn Sequel to a Modern Animated Classic

Recently, I was able to finally watch Inside Out 2. I watched the original when I was a kid, and it never really clicked with me. It didn’t feel right to break down the emotions, especially of a child, into such generic and simple concepts, and I remember at a young age feeling as if the film didn’t either understand or respect the idea that people who were kids could have more than five emotions. Even more, at my young age, when I was overthinking everything, I was convinced the plot didn’t make sense. Something no one has ever thought about Inside Out before. Yet, upon rewatching, I quite disagree with this assessment. All films are, in a sense, breaking down concepts, and simply, Inside Out was frank with it and considerably smart with its attention to its narrative and story.



While, yes, the plot is broken if you think about it, it is intentional, and as with all fantastical concepts, if you overthink it, everything is broken. Similar to nitpicking everything with a film rather than realizing all art is, in a way, flawed and moving on. Riley was never really a protagonist as much as an idea for the singular response, the ending, where she broke down to her parents, finally opening up. She was the idea that represented something that, even as a kid, made me cry: it is okay to be human. The film worked solely on its own since, yes, a sequel could be made, but it would have to stand on its two legs and not rely on the original since the original seemed almost steadfast against it. Its narrative was beautifully simplistic and helped many people, especially kids, understand their emotions. Simple yet poignant. It fits the saying that sometimes shorter is better. Though a sequel has been made. The one being discussed by me now. Inside Out 2. 

Inside Out 2 in every possible way fails the qualities the original had—timelessness and heart—and also lacks any bite or strong theme and rather feels extremely loosely made to have a sequel to the greatest animated film of the 2010s. What makes this sequel so hollow is that there is no heart like in the original. While in the original Inside Out, the heart was more simple and probably hard for some to get into thanks to its less warming demeanor in terms of not being always happy, it was a more sophisticated and considered film that burned brightly and bluntly as a work that felt personal to all involved and like a simple special story out of thousands Pixar had in their pocket. It was special in the mundane and wholesome value it brought to the table that Pixar was missing then in terms of actually good films. It didn’t feel manipulative or exploitative in its emotions or random, but rather like one of the writers had a kid and wanted to represent their situation. That vulnerability and personality, in the sequel, are completely absent and instead replaced with a laziness that is comparable to Incredibles 2 in its absence of strong writing and some blandess proudly on display.

Though, despite the significant and shameless writing issues, the animation in Inside Out 2 is usually quite strong, and while it feels the same in that Pixar never really changes their style, it still works quite brilliantly when it comes to representing emotions. Another significant aspect is some brilliant voice acting from new additions like Ayo Edebiri and Maya Hawke, who bring a funness that Inside Out 2 would usually, without question, miss without them. The returning cast does a strong job, and the new voice cast of some of the emotions does feel like a replacement voice cast, but they do put in some effort, at least, regardless. Overall, Inside Out 2 is a decent but sad sequel to a magicant initial film and feels more like fun trashy fanfiction than a true sequel. Though it does have its strong merits.

From the start of Inside Out 2, it feels as though the intention is clear. Fun. In other words, this is not a well-coordinated examination of growing up like before but a more in-the-times story of fitting in and hockey games. There is less of an examination this time around and more boring fun that may make a kid happy, but most parents will likely shrug. 

It feels as though Inside Out 2 mistakes why the original film worked so well. Simply put, Inside Out 2 feels like the writers are trying to appeal. Appeal to what the fans liked about the original while missing the whole point. Riley, for instance, feels more in the spotlight, sadly. I say sadly since she wasn’t why the original worked so well. Well, the idea of her is why it worked so well. It was how she navigated life that was relatable, and the quality of the writing came from the emotions hitting concepts they couldn’t just bluntly discuss but rather feelings you knew but didn’t need to even be said. Hard hitting. Here, that is thrown out for simple fun. The emotions feel more slick and heavy-handed, and while, yes, the original film was blunt in its concept, its execution of said concept was left in the way they could animate it more than they could say each word of what it’s about out loud.

Inside Out 2 is filled with a lack of execution and imagination. Never does Inside Out 2 feel like it even touches on the potential of the concept at play. Puberty. High school. Angst. Emotions. The internet. Social media. I mean, the list is endless, but it seems not on the writer’s bucket since all that feels delivered here like a studio giving the most boring idea ever a place to shine: What if she did that hockey thing she liked and there was some drama? Mundane scenario and boom, emotion. While, yes, the small ideas that lead to big emotions shown in this film are mediocre and almost rewatchable, they forget how specific these ideas are. The simple way would’ve been a reflection of getting through high school aimlessly and the emotions surrounding all areas of her life. Here, the parents barely show up, and school feels completely absent for the game of hockey. It truly feels as though a fascination for hockey was put over making a film since it is almost a parody of what a sequel to the original is.

In Inside Out 2, we have new additions like embarrassment, anxiety, ennui, and envy. And, in some ways, they add fresh air that brightens up this film. Anxiety is the moment of fear for what’s next, or, in other words, the new version of fear that takes itself a step further, now not just fear of decisions but a constant reminder of what could happen. I say the new version in the sense that, breaking it down, they are pretty similar. It can be described as having a math problem like seven plus seven equals fourteen, and those two sevens, let’s say, are two of the original emotions from Inside Out, and the fourteen would be the new emotions from Inside Out 2. In a sense, they build themselves and are born from the originals. And in a way, that is one of the most brilliant decisions this film, and any Pixar film, ever made.

Every emotion, in a way, is connected to one another, but to have the new ones feel like more complex and inspired ones from the original, like parody knockoffs or different and more detailed versions, is a brilliant way to represent growing up. As we age, we are hit with new feelings that are really the same thing, but we make them seem different. The anxiety we get as teens is no different than the fear we had when we were younger, just less exaggerated and in a different, more mental and less literal state. The brilliant call of this decision can’t go understated, as they could’ve easily chosen random new emotions that feel less particularly selected to where it feels like grabbing random ideas, but instead it feels well decided and formatted. While this level of brilliance is never reflected, to this degree, again, it is a high mark nonetheless that the original film only slightly knocks above with its nice concept.

The animation throughout Inside Out 2 flows so smoothly to a point, almost, where it feels like the Pixar animators could animate anything. I only say almost as the animation here, while being fantastic and freeing, shackles itself to the generic style Pixar is known for and has depended on for decades, so this achievement is less admirable in the outlook, but on its own, it is still stunning, if slightly a bit too frantic, as the original film felt more purposefully precise in its animated sequences. Here, it feels more like ideas the writers had that they just threw into animation. Though the animation behind it is still truly stunning to adore.

Character-wise, Inside Out 2 is decent. Its characters are written better than most sequel Pixar characters, but they always feel stuck to the wall, as if the writers are giving it their all but are limited by someone. Everyone in Inside Out 2 feels written as if they are children rather than teenagers or tweens who show every emotion on their face. For instance, when Riley leaves her friends behind to join her new friends in the hockey game, they give her a look of shock and shame, which feels highly unrealistic. Likely, it would’ve been concluded with her friends in real life, not even using words or looks; just understanding through a non-emotive glance in a second is all that needs to be said.

Moments like this that work better as dry and inconclusive are spread out and given cringe-worthy legroom to take over the narrative in ways that feel tone-deaf and highly unrealistic, while also feeling like older writers who are stuck too far in the past to ever catch the truth of adolescence they seek to represent. While we have emotions, not all of us use them in such a dramatic fashion that it feels like the characters are in a trashy reality television show that got old twenty-eight seasons ago after the reunion of the show it is a spinoff of.

Puberty is hitting Riley and the ever-changing emotions we all have at that age. While this is a universal feeling, it is how it is illustrated that makes it all not hit the mark. 

Riley, predictably, gets hit with a new school, new friends, trying to get over her old friends, and battling it all in the games of hockey and teenage puberty. It’s as predictable as you might expect given any trailer. She and her previous friends don’t get along, but they make up in the end. She learns to be herself, something the previous film handled tons better and much more respectfully and authentically. Simply put, this feels redundant and condescending. Inside Out conveyed the message of being yourself and that it’s okay to be you around ten years ago, and this is meant to be a sequel, not a shot-for-shot retread or parody, to be more precise.

With it all, Inside Out 2 simply seems like a forgetful idea. A lost memory. Overall, not bad, but certainly, without a shadow of a doubt, not great. It reads like an episode of Dora the Explorer in its predictability and lack of standards in terms of having any desire to be anything more than one out of many Pixar films. While it stands out, it barely does.

The issue with Riley’s focused narrative is that it makes things less simple and more direct. The essence and how the emotions work into a strong emotional concept were the bread and butter of how the original and this film needed to work. Taking the simplicity of human life and using these emotions to create reliability and authenticity. Here, Riley feels way too much like a specific character in the Pixar world and less like an easy to put yourself into, blank piece of wood protagonist yet herself nonetheless from before, and now the narrative relies on her character’s writing to produce strong results.

And it fails spectacularly. Riley is written horribly and feels like the writers are describing something vulnerable and true to themselves, but they miss the mark extremely and fall head over heels to take this uniqueness and condense it to a universality they long gave up on in the narrative, making for an odd experience. While Riley in Inside Out felt passive and shy and easy to put yourself in, in Inside Out 2, she feels like an overly cringe generic teenager written by an eighty year old.

In the original Inside Out, Bing Bong disappeared, which Riley will never remember. It was a scene where we had so much going on. Riley was having issues adapting to a new environment, something we all can relate to in our youth, and her emotions were everywhere. Also, her emotions were literary scattered trying to pick up the pieces but messing up horribly. Through these dilemmas, two powerful themes of never-ending exhaustion were discussed: memory fading and accepting change. Inside Out 2 struggles to even manage those two things. Through all of that, Bing Bong accepts his fate and hopes Joy makes it as he fades from Riley’s memory. It is a powerful scene since it executes the core concept of Inside Out emotionally without ever being exploitative or heavy-handed for kids.

In Inside Out 2, it wouldn’t be surprising for him to randomly appear just to be brought back to life somehow. I say this all to describe how Inside Out 2 fails. Its world is broken from every angle. No longer does the world feel meticulous, but rather far beyond our knowledge, and the issue with this is that we see other people’s emotions around Riley. If this had been built up to, maybe it could’ve delivered, but through basic thinking and even attempting this world’s logic, it all falls short, as if the writers are throwing random things in at this point. While, as said long ago, it is okay to accept things that don’t make sense, there comes a point where your world is purely out of focus and consideration of itself bluntly without knowledge. It is, at least, worth pointing out.

The ending of Inside Out 2 feels paint by the numbers in its basicness without offering more. Seeing Riley make up with her friends is emotional, but not like in the first film, where it felt raw. Now it feels like usual since the whole film feels derivative of the film it is a sequel to. If I had to describe it, it is all the same scenery without any of the strong emotion. It all feels too expected and rehearsed to feel as natural and hard-hitting as the original film. Joy is, again, trying to get back to Riley, and it ends with sadness occuring, and then Riley again has a heart-to-heart moment with someone, and all is well. It feels almost like a jar of how a sequel should work and be produced. Never feeling truly as human as it attempts to be.

The problem the writers faced here is likely the root problem with writing an Inside Out sequel. Planning and juggling one world with another, where one is cause and effect. In a sense, the writers would’ve needed to know how to end and start the film before even getting to the middle. It is a planned film where everything has to flow right into place, yet it feels all too crooked.

If I had to describe Inside Out 2, in sequel talk, it is the Finding Dory or Incredibles 2 sequels in that it is not the worst. It is not even way below average since it has its positives—the animation, voice acting, and some writing choices—rise to the occasion sometimes so tremendously above the rest that it’s hard not to see the quality present. Overall, Inside Out 2 is just okay. Though, unlike those two animated Pixar sequels, Inside Out 2 has a bit of bite to it, though only slightly, that makes it feel its own rather than a blank piece of wood that those animated sequels are almost tied to thanks to how much they have in common with the sadness of no distinct personality.

A great feature of Inside Out 2 is that it gives helpful advice to anyone going through puberty. Through the scenes of Joy fighting anxiety in the dream place and the overcoming and happy ending, it is surely to give many teens very needed advice that many of us would’ve wished to have in an effective and, in some ways, beautiful manner such as this. It shows teens how to fight anxiety, live life happily, and be themselves, but in accomplishing this, it still falls short in many areas.

VERDICT

Inside Out 2 is enjoyable fluff, but that is mostly all it is. Fluff. Where Inside Out felt raw, all that is felt here is the feeling compared to “at least it was something.”

3/5 


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