Inside Out 2

Three years after Joy (voice of Amy Poehler) and Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) traveled from Riley’s (voice of Kensington Tallman, replacing Kaitlyn Dias) control center to her long term memory to propel her out of a funk by retrieving a core memory, Joy once again takes the now budding teen’s emotions on a journey to recover the Sense of Self jettisoned by the new group of emotions led by Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke) just as Riley is going to be put to the test at a high stakes hockey camp in “Inside Out 2.”

Laura's Review: B-

Director Kelsey Mann makes his feature directorial debut with a script by Dave Holstein (TV's 'Weeds') and Meg LeFauve ("Inside Out") that is a faded retread of the original featuring a similar journey through a world that seems far less imaginative.  It is telling that Riley’s reality is a lot more interesting than what’s going on behind the scenes.

As Riley’s mom and dad (voices of Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) have her blowing out candles on her 14th birthday cake, Joy is astonished when a construction crew arrives to enlarge headquarters, making room for new teenaged emotions Anxiety, looking like a manic hybrid of Sesame Street characters, turquoise Envy (voice of Ayo Edebiri), a Goth gray-violet Ennui (voice of Adèle Exarchopoulos) and the lilac hoodied, big pink Embarrassment (voice of Paul Walter Hauser).  A struggle for control begins, Joy hanging onto Riley’s sense of being a good person while Anxiety responds to the outside forces now challenging that self perception.

After a brief blast of teenaged rebellion against her parents, Riley’s world is turned upside down on the drive to camp when she learns her (appropriately Disney diversified) best friends Grace (voice of Grace Lu) and Bree (voice of Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green) have been assigned to a different high school, making Riley susceptible to the allure of the Redhawks high school hockey team’s prodigy Val Ortiz (voice of Lilimar, "Hubie Halloween"), who became a star player in her Freshman year by scoring two goals during her own camp’s scrimmage under the watchful eye of Coach Roberts (voice of 'Community's' Yvette Nicole Brown).  Ditching her friends to suck up to the older girls sends Riley seesawing between Embarrassment and Ennui, Grace calling her out when Riley disses her favorite boy band.  Anxiety’s added memories build a new Sense of Self, one which declares “I’m not good enough’ on the critical eve of Riley’s scrimmage audition.

While I found some of the original film’s concepts muddled, this one merely revisits a few, and with less creative detail at that, the only notable additions a place called Sar-chasm, good for a joke, and a Secret vault that houses such things as Riley’s crush, video game character Lance Slashblade (voice of Yong Yea), a Deep Dark Secret (voice of Steve Purcell), never identified, and a TV show Riley’s really too old for now, Bloofy (voice of Ron Funches), a character represented as a hand-drawn animation along with his buddy Pouchy (voice of SNL's James Austin Johnson), who contains resources such like video game tools.

But the journey concocted by Holstein and LeFauve is murkier, Sadness pushed ahead this time, only to end up as a spy in headquarters where she makes an ally of Embarrassment, he and Ennui, looking like something Tim Burton would have created and beautifully voiced by Exarchopoulos, the best additions to the franchise.  Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale, replacing Bill Hader) and Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira, replacing Mindy Kaling) all have less to do here.  Another new emotion, the beige, grandmotherly Nostalgia (voice of June Squibb), shows up a couple of times only to be told she’s arrived decades too soon (one wonders if there will be an “Inside Out 3” with a Sexual Desire emotion – now *that* might be interesting).

Mann and his animators give us some exciting hockey action, but while Riley finds the humility to beg her old friends’ forgiveness after not only abandoning their team but checking Grace hard enough to draw a penalty, the new teammates she’s stolen pucks from to attain her own glory simply seem to forget her transgressions.  And while Riley’s stolen a peak at the Coach’s red handbook, the final frame also belies what we’ve witnessed.

Pixar already made a great film about a young girl entering puberty.  It was called “Turning Red” and was relegated to Disney’s streaming service before getting a belated theatrical release this year.  As is the case with most Pixar sequels, “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo” excepted, “Inside Out 2” is merely OK.

Disney releases "Inside Out 2" in theater son 6/14/24.