Children grow up, and the great merit of Inside Out 2, the sequel to the beloved 2015 animated film from Pixar and Disney, is its organic and natural progression. In the first film, the emotions living in young Riley’s mind – especially Joy and Sadness – learned to collaborate and reached a level of mutual understanding and friendship. It was truly touching to see them learning to coexist because both were necessary for the proper functioning of Riley’s mind and life. It was a beautiful and appropriate notion to teach children – and some adults too. But what would happen to this little girl as she grew up?

The sequel comes to answer that question. When Part 2 begins, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust have become an efficient and sharp team in Riley’s control room. However, one day, the whirlwind of puberty hits: Riley starts screaming, experiencing mood swings, and feeling embarrassed by her parents. To make matters worse, she wants to trade her dear friends for the more popular crowd. Meanwhile, the control room begins to be demolished to make way for new emotions. Anxiety, in particular, takes control and expels our heroes, who embark on a new adventure through Riley’s mind to save the essence of her personality.

Directed by Kelsey Mann, Inside Out 2 is, with the pardon of redundancy, very entertaining, with brilliant moments and insights. The evolution of the story and characters allows the script to explore interesting situations, and of course, the animation is spectacular. The design of the new characters is very funny and creative, and the scenes of Riley’s hockey games have strength and impact, as if they were filmed with real people. Details like a small pimple on Riley’s chin or Joy’s translucent skin, sometimes shown in close-up, serve to enhance the spectacle.

A Reheated Adventure

But there is a problem: in my opinion, Pixar has only once managed to produce a sequel that surpassed the original. That was with Toy Story 3 (2010). Inside Out 2 is no exception. As much as the story has its qualities and explores new emotional resonances, it’s a bit disappointing that the sequel follows the structure of the first: once again we have a dilemma for Riley, once again the characters must embark on a journey – repeating some of the original settings – and on top of that, we even have a repetition of some jokes and gags. Our heroes once again encounter some 2D animated figures, and we see the control rooms of other characters. As funny as these scenes are – the Fanny Pack is a blast – they do have a slightly reheated flavor.

And the new characters, unfortunately, don’t leave much of an impression. Boredom and Envy are in the background, and Shame is funny, but the new emotions in this sequel don’t have much space in the story to become truly memorable.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a perfect antagonist, one who believes she is right, and her gradual loss of control even provokes an emotional hurricane near the climax. When Inside Out 2 follows its own path, the film shines the most, exploring the dynamics brought by the arrival of Anxiety, and in some new notions that the film introduces. A moment in the so-called Imagination Land, which takes on the aspect of a dark office, evokes memories of dystopian films like 1984 and Brazil: The Movie (1985), the kind of outside-the-box visual and thematic reference that we only see in a Pixar production.

Alternating between brilliant moments and others reminiscent of the original, Inside Out 2 proceeds confidently to its finale, which indeed manages to be touching. Of course, the constant succession of jokes and conflicts keeps the audience engaged: it’s the kind of film that possesses an irresistible charm. It ends up representing a distillation of many conflicts of youth and early adolescence, which we all go through: moments of anger, confusion, and loneliness that can shape how we live the rest of our lives. For addressing this with creativity and fun, Inside Out 2 deserves a lot of credit. The final message is very beautiful, even if some steps of the journey may have seemed a bit familiar.