Movie Reviews

Inside Out 2 Is The Most Important Movie I've Seen This Year For One Big Reason

Summary

  • Inside Out 2 explores the struggles of self-identity during puberty, making it relatable for teens and parents alike.
  • The movie emphasizes the importance of embracing messy emotions and normalizing feelings of anxiety and self-doubt.
  • Inside Out 2 teaches valuable lessons about self-acceptance and the complexity of human emotions for audiences of all ages.



Pixar has done it again with Inside Out 2, and after watching it with my 13-year-old son, I’m convinced it’s the most important movie we have watched this year (and for some years to come). The 2024 movie was highly anticipated after the success of the first Inside Out, and my household was no exception. My kids have repeatedly watched the original movie over the last decade, so the idea of a continuation was especially exciting. However, with the topic of puberty so relevant for my oldest son, I was curious how Inside Out 2 would go over.


Inside Out is one of those movies that I really enjoy discussing with my kids. They naturally began comparing their feelings to those of the movie, pointing out whether they thought Joy, Sadness, Anger, or the rest were “in control” at any given moment. The first film explored the importance of unpleasant emotions, with Riley ultimately learning the necessity of allowing herself to feel sadness rather than fighting it away. Inside Out‘s personification of these emotions has helped me guide my kids through their own tough feelings all these years, and now Inside Out 2 has taken this even further.

Related

All 5 New Emotions In Inside Out 2 Explained

Pixar’s Inside Out 2 sees Riley go through puberty, which means a host of brand new emotion characters to make her life a little more complicated.


Inside Out 2 Perfectly Captures The Struggles Of Self-Identity During Puberty

Riley’s Struggles With Her Sense Of Self Is Deeply Relatable

Riley and her family in Inside Out 2
Custom Image by Debanjana Chowdhury


Riley goes through puberty in Inside Out 2, as represented by a conveniently labeled alarm flashing away at headquarters. This sends the emotions into turmoil as a bunch of cells break their way in and begin tearing things apart. The changes made to the console mean that even the slightest interaction from Inside Out‘s emotion characters sends Riley over the edge. It’s a laughably accurate representation of this period in an adolescent’s life, and while sitting in the theater with my family, my 13-year-old son and I shared a couple of sideways glances and smirks.

However, it was later in the film that I really began watching for my son’s reactions. Anxiety became determined in Inside Out 2 to make Riley into a whole new version of herself. She broke away from her existing belief system and began planting new memories to establish a brand new sense of self. This led Riley to pretend to be someone different so that she would be accepted by her older and cooler classmates. The idea of being rejected only made Anxiety (and Riley, by extension) panic further until the end of Inside Out 2 when Riley had a full-blown anxiety attack.


Riley’s Story In Inside Out 2 Shows Young Audiences That They Aren’t Alone

Riley Demonstrates That It’s Normal For Teens To Grapple With Their Sense Of Self

The entire cast of emotions in Inside Out 2 hugging in a custom image
Image Created by Lukas Shayo

At the center of Riley’s panic in Inside Out 2 was her newly established core belief—”I’m not good enough.” Riley had started the film believing that she was a good person, but Anxiety caused her to lose confidence that this would be enough to get her friends in high school. She imagined every possible way that her life could go wrong, and being rejected by the cool kids or the high school hockey coach became the worst possible thing that could happen to her. This is a feeling I remember all too well and something I have watched my son begin to experience.

While I would love for my son to watch this movie and realize that if he accepts every bit of himself—the good, the bad, and the ugly—all will be well, this just isn’t realistic.


Of course, Riley’s emotions worked through their problems at the end of Inside Out 2, and everything turned out okay. While I would love for my son to watch this movie and realize that if he accepts every bit of himself—the good, the bad, and the ugly—all will be well, this just isn’t realistic. Just like everyone else, he will have to work through his puberty-fueled insecurities over time and the hard way. However, Inside Out 2 is still valuable in that it shows him that these experiences are normal and universal. He isn’t the only one out there making mistakes, getting carried away, and falling apart.

Movies Rarely Show Teens That The Messiest Parts Of Themselves Are Normal


At the end of Inside Out 2, Joy realizes that both she and Anxiety were trying to use only specific memories and experiences to make Riley who they wanted her to be. Joy had been tossing Riley’s mistakes and negative experiences to the back of her mind so they wouldn’t impact her belief system. However, this meant that Riley’s sense of self, which resonated with only “I’m a good person,” was weak and susceptible to Anxiety’s influence. When Joy allowed all of Riley’s memories, even the bad ones, to sink in, Riley’s sense of self was more complex but far stronger.

Kids’ movies and TV shows seem to focus more often on the message that a person’s mistakes don’t define them, but this thinking is too black and white.


Kids’ movies and TV shows seem to focus more often on the message that a person’s mistakes don’t define them, but this thinking is too black and white. Inside Out 2 instead teaches that the mistakes and negative experiences that teenagers are so prone to may be uncomfortable and messy, but they are normal and must be embraced and accepted. Riley’s sense of self became more complicated when she did this, and that voice rang out with more realistic statements like “I’m brave, but I get scared,” or “I’m a good person, but I’m selfish sometimes.”

My son didn’t walk out of the theater after watching Inside Out 2 a brand new kid. When I asked him what he thought of the movie, he only commented that it was long (classic teenage Ennui at work). However, I still believe it will be the most important movie he watches this year, even if he doesn’t realize it. As a new teenager, he is painfully hard on himself and seems to believe that now that he is older, he must be perfect. However, when media like Inside Out 2 shows him that his mistakes and messy feelings are normal and important, perhaps he can slowly start to fully accept himself.


Inside Out 2 Demonstrates How Valuable Future Sequels Could Be

Inside Out’s Important Lessons Could Continue As Riley Grows

Of course, Inside Out 2‘s lessons aren’t only valuable to those who are the same age as the film’s protagonist. Adults everywhere never learned that it was okay to accept the messier parts of themselves, and media that encourage this can begin to heal their inner teenagers. The same was true for the first Inside Out movie as well. The idea that we all need time to be sad or experience other uncomfortable emotions is something that people of all ages struggle with. Pixar has used its unique way of exploring the human mind to gently remind audiences that what they are experiencing is normal.

Star Amy Poehler has already voiced interest in using further
Inside Out
sequels to explore other stages in Riley’s life.


Of course, there is still a lot of untapped potential here. Inside Out and Inside Out 2 dived into two stages of growing up, but there is a full lifetime ahead of Riley and her inner emotions that could be explored. Every stage of personal growth, including the middle and later teenage years, early adulthood, and beyond, comes with other important lessons that could be extremely valuable to audiences. While there’s no sure word on whether Pixar will produce more Inside Out sequels, I, as a mother and human being with plenty of messy emotions, certainly hope it does.

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