Here's why 'Inside Out 2' hit me much harder at 21 than the 1st movie did when I was 12 (2024)

Here's why 'Inside Out 2' hit me much harder at 21 than the 1st movie did when I was 12 (1)

Here's why 'Inside Out 2' hit me much harder at 21 than the 1st movie did when I was 12 (2)

It might not feel like it, but nine years have passed since Pixar's animated film "Inside Out" first showed in cinemas.

Fast forward to the present, and "Inside Out 2" is all the buzz ahead of its release worldwide.

This film follows the protagonist Riley, who is now 13 years old, as she goes through the tumults of puberty and the joy of being a teen.

Helping her navigate these unfamiliar waters are four new emotions: Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment and Ennui (which is essentially a fancy word for "boredom").

Though I may have been much closer in age to Riley when the first movie was released in 2015, I found the second to be a lot harder hitting now that I'm in my twenties.

Here's why.

So, so relatable

When I initially told my colleagues I wasn't particularly impressed by the first "Inside Out" film, they were appalled.

I rewatched it immediately after attending the screening for the second instalment, and can say with certainty that I stand by my original judgement.

Unlike the first movie which was centred on 11-year-old Riley's turmoil following her family's move from Minnesota to San Francisco, Riley's experiences in "Inside Out 2" resonated with me a lot more.

Perhaps the first film might have struck a chord with those struggling to adapt to a new environment, but unless you've experienced those feelings of displacement yourself, you probably wouldn't have been able to empathise much with Riley.

In the second movie, however, what Riley goes through is pretty much the universal teenage experience: craving the validation of others while being desperate to fit in.

My teenage years are past, but the commonalities I could identify between Riley's experiences and mine just made the movie hit that much harder.

And it seemed many others in the cinema that night felt the same — the theatre was filled with laughter though the movie was objectively not even that funny, probably because everyone could relate.

The Belief System

As you might have seen snippets of in the trailer, "Inside Out 2" introduces the Belief System, comprising everything Riley believes to be fundamental to who she is as a person.

Visually, this is represented by a tree-like structure made up of glowing strings, which would recite Riley's beliefs when strummed — things like "I'm a good person", "My parents are proud of me" and, as the film progresses, "I'm not good enough".

Aside from it being stunning and an extremely apt addition to a movie that unpacks the teenage experience, I especially appreciated that the beliefs were recited in Riley's own voice.

Though a small detail, being able to hear the differences in intonation as Riley went from believing these things with certainty, to them becoming mere affirmations as the film progressed, made her all that more personable.

It also sounds a lot like what I'm sure goes on inside many of our heads, regardless of how old you are, and watching the nine emotions steer Riley out of her "I'm not good enough" spiral healed my inner child just a little bit.

Keeping it real

"Inside Out 2" was also relatable in the sense that Riley isn't perfect.

During the latter half of the movie, watching Riley having anxiety attack felt a little intrusive, but I feel that this was a necessary episode given the subject matter of the film, the introduction of Anxiety and the contemporary importance placed on mental health.

Disney's works often tend towards the direction of rainbows and sunshine, so I would be lying if I said I wasn't taken aback by Riley's breakdown.

Though a bold move, I was pleasantly surprised by how realistically they portrayed the whole episode.

It's a good step forward towards normalising mental health struggles.

Additionally, while the four new emotions were working against the five from the first film, I liked that they were portrayed more as anti-heroes, rather than as villains.

Being mainly targeted at children, Disney often tends to polarise its characters and draw a clear boundary between good and evil. Things are, however, often not so black-and-white in reality, which I appreciated being reflected in this film.

Final thoughts

We already knew "Inside Out 2" would take the film scene by storm, but I was frankly impressed by the grace with which they navigated such sensitive themes.

Not only did I find the plot clever and thoughtful, but I also really appreciated the details Disney weaved into the film.

The expansion of the console from the first movie as Riley's emotions and thought processes become more complex with age, the cameos by bonus emotion Nostalgia, the different art styles embedded in the film — these were all aspects that made the movie that much better for me as compared to the first.

Side note, though: story time on the night you bring your pre-teen might get long if you decide to bring them to watch the film.

But that's okay, because we can't think of a better way to introduce your kids to the labyrinth of teenage emotions than a movie that reminds us all that it's really okay not to be perfect.

"Inside Out 2" is now showing in cinemas.

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Top photos from Disney

Here's why 'Inside Out 2' hit me much harder at 21 than the 1st movie did when I was 12 (2024)
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