Humor and heart: ‘Inside Out 2’ is a much-needed return to form for Pixar

Pixar delivers a memorable film—albeit in safe sequel mode—with Inside Out 2, a zippy, goofy, sometimes ingenious and consistently fun riff on puberty and the new emotions that come with it.

Riley (the voice of Kensington Tallman) has turned 13, and with that, the likes of Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) have new competition at Riley’s emotions panel. Leading the way is, naturally, Anxiety (a hilarious Maya Hawke), unrelentingly taking command of Riley and making her hockey tryouts an extreme challenge.

The script, co-written by director Kelsey Mann, cleverly has a field day with all of the emotions that come in waves with a teen going through puberty. There’s a panic-attack sequence late in the film that is one of the best scenes Pixar has put together in more than a decade.

It’s been a while since one of their films has blown minds like Pixar once did frequently. Inside Out 2 reminds how brilliant the animation studio can sometimes be.

Hawke, who has proven herself to be as capable of an actor as her parents Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, gets a real showcase here. Her Anxiety is one of the funnier characters in the Pixar universe.

Other new emotions providing laughter include Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) and Ennui (Adele Exarchopoulos). Poehler, while taking a bit of a back seat to Hawke’s Anxiety, still qualifies as the emotional ringleader and is just as fun as she was in the original.

It’s good to see Pixar hit a high note and pump some life into an otherwise dismal summer movie season. As with some of their best films, Inside Out 2 has a lot of heart to go with the laughs, and I expect there will be more of these in the future. I have to think we will see Riley in college—and the slew of emotions that will come with that.

YouTube video