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Review: Inside Out 2

[The following review contains MINOR SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]

Inside Out 2 is cute, charming, and—if the enthusiastic response of the crowd that I saw it with is any indication—a huge hit with its target demographic. I certainly left the theater a reasonably satisfied customer; theoretically, the film does everything that a proper sequel should, delivering a more expansive narrative that elaborates on the themes introduced in its predecessor.

I know that there was some controversy online regarding apparent “contradictions” of previously established “canon” and “continuity” (e.g., the abrupt addition of new Emotions that were conspicuously absent from the previous installment), but—at the risk of sounding like I’m rushing to the defense of a multibillion-dollar corporation—I think that such superficial complaints are misguided and irrelevant. This is an allegory intended for children; scrutinizing the consistency of the “lore” and “internal logic” to an excessive degree is… counterproductive, to phrase it as charitably as possible. Obsessing over the minutiae and superfluous details of the "world building" within the context of an obvious metaphor misses the forest for the trees; the story only really needs to be functional enough to support the central conflict, character development, and core message.

And Inside Out 2 accomplishes that much with aplomb, exploring the dangers of emotional repression and examining how having an overly rigid self-image can ultimately be detrimental to one’s self-worth. As somebody who suffers from rather severe anxiety, I found the (admittedly simple) moral to be quite relatable and resonant—particularly towards the movie’s climax, when our protagonist’s seemingly mutually exclusive ambitions and desires send her into a self-perpetuating downward spiral of frustration, self-doubt, and self-pity. The "accurate depiction of a panic attack in animation" trope has recently been reduced to a punchline on Twitter, but the example here actually comes close to capturing how the experience feels in the moment: a catastrophic loss of self-control that essentially causes the rational mind to shut down entirely while the body careens along on autopilot.

Although I’m not terribly pleased with Pixar’s current creative direction (prioritizing sequels and spin-offs, sacrificing personal expression in favor of “mass appeal”—whatever that means), Inside Out 2 clearly demonstrates that the studio can still achieve brilliance within those potentially suffocating artistic constraints. So at least the commercial slop will taste just a bit sweeter as we choke it down.

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