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Did INSIDE OUT 2 Go Woke?

Photo from Pixar INSIDE OUT’s Instagram

Did INSIDE OUT 2 Go Woke?

By Movieguide® Staff

Editor’s note: This is a portion of our review. Click here to read the full review, including our content breakdown.

INSIDE OUT 2 is a sequel to the popular, acclaimed 2015 animated comedy from Pixar and Disney. Riley, the young girl of the first movie, turns 13 and a bunch of unruly teenage emotions, led by Anxiety, take over Riley’s psyche and banish Riley’s other emotions, including Joy. INSIDE OUT 2 is a delightful, inventive, heartwarming movie about doing the right thing, controlling your emotions, caring for your friends, both old and new, and promoting kindness, friendship, repentance, and forgiveness.

As the movie opens, Riley has just turned 13 and is enjoying being a star hockey player on her middle school team. She has two close friends, Grace and Bree, who also play on her team. The three girls are looking forward to the upcoming high school hockey camp, which lasts for three days. Roberts, the nearby high school hockey coach, runs the camp and uses it to pick new players for the varsity team, which has won three state championships. Riley idolizes the older star of the current team, Valentina, who’s in her fourth and final year. She hopes she can be half a as good as her.

Meanwhile, inside Riley’s brain, Riley’s Joy avatar is leading Sadness, Anger and Riley’s other emotions in cleaning out and deep filing all of Riley’s bad memories. Her actions are helping Riley develop a positive belief system about herself.

The night before the first day of hockey camp, some noises in the control room wake up Joy and Riley’s other emotions. They find some small workmen changing the control panel. Anger, Fear and Disgust start messing around with the buttons on the new panel. At the same time, Riley wakes up very irritable with her mother. She fears going to the hockey camp and failing. Back at the control panel, Riley’s emotion avatars find the word Puberty written on the new control panel. They also discover that the new buttons are very sensitive and cause Riley to over-react at the slightest touch.

Riley manages to get herself together, however, and go to the camp. Her father and mother are driving Riley and her friends, Bree and Grace, to the camp. In the back seat, Riley notices something wrong with her friends, however. Grace tells her the bad news, that she and Bree aren’t going to the same high school where Coach Roberts runs the champion hockey team. Riley, of course, is very sad to hear the news, but she and her buddies promise to remain close friends.

Back in the control room, Joy and the other emotions are surprised to find the control room invaded by a bunch of new emotions, including Anxiety, Envy, Ennui or Boredom, and Embarrassment. Anxiety immediately starts to take over. She doesn’t like what Joy and the other emotions have done. She starts to fill Riley up with anxiety about not making the high school hockey team. As a result, Riley abandons her two friends and starts putting all her focus into making the team and becoming friends with Valentina.

Joy tries to take back control. However, Anxiety orders Embarrassment, a large hulking guy in a hoodie, to force Joy, Anger, Sadness, and Fear into a tube that banishes them to the outer territories of Riley’s brain. To make matters worse, Anxiety starts moving and filing away all of Riley’s good memories and returning some of the bad memories that Joy had filed into Riley’s unconscious. As a result, Anxiety starts building a new belief system for Riley that starts turning her into an anxiety-ridden human being who’s liable to do whatever it takes to succeed in life.

Joy rallies her friends to find their way back to the control room of Riley’s brain and stop Anxiety from doing more damage to Riley. However, can they fix everything in time, before Riley does something she’ll regret?

INSIDE OUT 2 is a marvelous, family-friendly animated movie. It’s Pixar’s best movie since 2019’s TOY STORY 4. That same year, Disney, which owns Pixar, had seven of the Top 10 Movies in the United States and Canada, including the MOVIEGUIDE® Award winning TOY STORY 4.

The good news is that, unlike Disney and Pixar’s recent movies, INSIDE OUT 2 isn’t woke or politically correct at all, at least as far as MOVIEGUIDE® can tell. In fact, INSIDE OUT 2 is delightful, funny, inventive, and heartwarming. It also has many positive messages. For example, it promotes doing the right thing, keeping your emotions under control and not letting your anxieties overcome your decision making. Another nice message is the movie’s conclusion that it’s not good for people to focus only on their good memories or only on their bad memories, because both can provide valuable lessons. Finally, various scenes promote repentance, forgiveness, humility, friendship, and kindness. Also, don’t forget your old friends even when you’re making new friends. The story has wonderful visual and non-visual ways to illustrate these messages and themes.

That said, although INSIDE OUT 2 has a subplot about Riley developing a “belief system,” the movie has no overt religious or redemptive content other than a scene of repentance and forgiveness. Thus, the movie’s story is more psychological than metaphysical or philosophical. Even so, however, the movie’s messages about controlling our emotions and not letting one emotion overwhelm you has some biblical precedents. For instance, Jesus says don’t judge other people without first applying the same standard toward yourself. He also commands us to make “righteous” judgments. In addition, Jesus often tells his listeners to “fear not” and don’t be anxious but rely on Him and God’s provision. Fear and anxiety can lead us to God and can alert us to a threat or a problem that we need to address, with help from God and Scripture, of course. Also, self-control is one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit described by Paul in Galatians 5:22, 23. Thus, righteous anger is not bad, but uncontrolled anger is.

MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for younger children for scenes of peril and a large scary-looking but nonthreatening character called Deep Secrets. Happily, INSIDE OUT 2 is a delightful return to form for Pixar and Disney.

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