Notice: All forms on this website are temporarily down for maintenance. You will not be able to complete a form to request information or a resource. We apologize for any inconvenience and will reactivate the forms as soon as possible.

Content Caution



In Theaters


Home Release Date




Paul Asay

Movie Review

And Riley’s life had been going so well, too.

The girl was really getting the hang of the whole childhood thing. Oh, sure, the move to San Francisco had rocked her world for a while (as chronicled in 2015’s Inside Out). But she’d settled in just fine (eventually). She was excelling in school. She was tearing up the ice. She had a couple of fantastic friends, Grace and Bree. What more could a girl want?

Yep, all of Riley’s emotions would agree that their now 13-year-old girl was turning out just great. And those emotions—Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust—rarely agree on anything.

Then, wouldn’t you know it, puberty had to come in and wreck everything.

Wreck is the operational word here, at least as far as Riley’s emotions are concerned. One minute, the puberty alarm on Riley’s emotional control bank is blaring. The next, a team of blue construction workers storms headquarters, saws and crowbars in hand, and completely decimates the control room. The workers say that it’s all to make room for the others.

And then those others start showing up.

Anxiety arrives first, all teeth and eyes and frazzled hair. Envy shows up and fawns over the control board. Embarrassment, a big galloot of an emotion, tries to hide in his hoodie. And Ennui lounges on a couch—oh so over everything—and fiddles with her phone.

No problem, right? I mean, it’s not like this is Joy’s first rodeo with meddlesome emotions. They’re all part of the team! And as long as Joy’s in control, everything will be fine. Just fine.

But when Riley goes to an important three-day hockey camp and (at Joy’s urging) goofs off with her friends, the hockey coach makes it clear that unbridled joy in this setting is not fine. It’s not fine at all. If Riley wants to be a top hockey player—perhaps even one that makes the high school team as a freshman—she’ll need to work. She’ll need to focus. There’s a time and place for joy, but this camp ain’t it.

Anxiety gently nudges Joy aside and takes the controls. If Riley hopes to succeed in this unfamiliar world, the girl could use a little anxiety. She could use a little motivational stress. Riley’s a teenager now, after all. Time to put away those childish things and grow up. Grow into an entirely different person who can cope with all of life’s present stresses and future uncertainties.

“This is not Riley!” Joy protests.

“I know!” Anxiety tells her. “It’s a better Riley!”

But is it?

Positive Elements

Like its predecessor, Inside Out 2 does a whale of a job depicting what’s going on in a kid’s (and, let’s be honest, an adult’s), mind. We’ll have more to say about that in our Conclusion, though, and in this section, I want to concentrate on the characters we meet. And we start with perhaps the least likable of all.

Anxiety isn’t inherently bad. Just like every other emotion bouncing around in Riley’s head, Anxiety just wants what’s best for the girl. She explains that while Fear protects Riley from the obvious dangers she can see, Anxiety protects her from the dangers she can’t. And while the word anxiety has an almost universally negative connotation, it’s at the root of a lot of what we do and strive for. (My own little orange anxiety character, for instance, reminds me to be careful with what I write and how I write it. Don’t miss anything, it tells me. Reflect the movie fairly. If my own manifestation of Joy was in the driver’s seat right now, I’d probably not care that much about such things; I’d be just having too good a time writing.)

But Anxiety can get a little carried away (to put it mildly), and it’s up to the other emotions to save the day. So Joy leads our more familiar emotions on a rambling quest to fix Riley’s sense of self-worth, and many of the newcomers (particularly Embarrassment) do what they can to help, if a bit belatedly.

Then, of course, you’ve got Riley’s real-world friends and family.

Riley’s mother and father are still very supportive of their little girl (even as they buckle up for the pubescent roller coaster now in full swing). But they take a backseat here to Riley’s friends.

She and her two besties, Bree and Grace, have been inseparable for a good long while now, and we can see their shared affection. But (much to Riley’s surprise), Bree and Grace are being transferred to a new school, and Riley’s facing the prospect of diving into high school without her reliable support structure.

Into that looming void steps Valentina, a hockey star who made the high school team as a freshman (which, we gather, is almost unheard of). You could argue that Valentina isn’t the best of influences on Riley, but it’s not Val’s fault: The older girl is very kind to Riley—doing everything you’d hope she’d do to make Riley feel welcome.

Meanwhile, Riley herself makes some pretty bad choices here. But she makes some good ones, too. And in flashbacks, we see critical moments in her life where she formed her healthy self-worth: She befriends Grace in an awkward moment, for instance. She shares the puck on the ice. She still enjoys being goofy with her mom and dad. Because of these moments and others, she believes herself to be a good person. And mostly, she is.

Spiritual Elements

A girl on the hockey team wears a hijab, indicating that she’s a practicing Muslim.

The movie places a huge focus on Riley’s core beliefs. In the context of the film, those core beliefs are about what she thinks of herself, not about a higher power or a core philosophy. But arguably, what we think about ourselves rubs elbows with spiritual questions, too.

Sexual Content

Before Inside Out 2’s release, many a fan and pundit alike wondered whether 13-year-old Riley might “come out” herself, based on some very limited interaction between Riley and Val in the trailer.

But the movie’s stance is unequivocable: Riley likes boys.

We see her “Mount Crushmore” of pop-culture figures, and all of them are guys. She really likes a dramatic videogame character, Lance Slashblade (a crush she shares, a bit oddly, with her emotion Disgust). She and her friends dig (or, at least dug) boy bands. Yes, Riley really wants Val to like her. But like her in that way? Nope. That doesn’t seem to come within Riley’s emotional zip code. And if Val and her older hockey-playing friends may have romantic interests of their own, we don’t see them here.

When Riley enters a locker room, she sees a fellow player or two wearing modest sports bras. One girl is shown putting deodorant on wearing that garment.

When Riley’s parents prepare to drop Riley off at hockey camp, Dad asks Mom what she’d like to do during this “big weekend” (raising his eyebrows suggestively). Mom—much to Dad’s disappointment—rattles off a list of chores. A couple of times, we see the tiniest bit of Embarrassment’s rear (think a touch of plumber’s crack); those scenes are played for laughs, obviously.

Violent Content

Hockey can be a violent game, and we see one character knock down another on the ice: It takes a while for the latter to recover, and the former is sent to the penalty box. One person has, essentially, a panic attack that elevates her heart rate and breathing.

In an earlier game, Riley’s called for tripping another player, and she’s penalized for it.

Things are a bit more perilous inside Riley’s mind. Cartoon dynamite blows up doors and triggers avalanches. Emotions fall from some terrific heights (but are ultimately unharmed). Riley’s actions can open up some perilous chasms, and plenty of Riley’s emotional infrastructure (ranging from vacuum tubes to furniture) is destroyed during the film. A cartoon pouch has its cartoon mouth ransacked, which looks uncomfortable. Emotions are literally bottled up.

Crude or Profane Language

None, unless you count the word “heck.” Oh, and we do hear a string of exclamations that goes something like, “Jiminy mother-loving toaster strudel.”

Drug and Alcohol Content


Other Negative Elements

We hear a reference or two to feeling sick and to urination. And because increased body odor is typically a sign of puberty, we hear a few references on that front, too.

Riley makes some bad decisions and, essentially, lies on occasion. But it’s all done with a redemptive character arc in mind, and her actions in these cases are clearly wrong and not glorified.


For a long while, Pixar could do no wrong.

From 1995’s Toy Story to 2015’s Inside Out, the studio churned out a steady stream of critical and commercial hits. In that 20-year span, Pixar released 15 films—and a staggering 11 of them scored 90% or better on Rotten Tomatoes.

While Pixar has still churned out its share of critical and commercial darlings since then, it’s suffered a few misfires, too—perhaps highlighted (or lowlighted?) by 2022’s Lightyear, considered the first real financial flop on Pixar’s ledger.

Many conservative Christian families steered clear of Lightyear because of its LGBT content, but that’s only part of the story of why the movie failed. Truth is, Pixar’s storytelling has also been a bit uneven—at least for Pixar. And those factors—and likely others—led many to eye Inside Out 2 with caution. I loved the original, you might be asking. But will the sequel match up? Will Disney/Pixar spoil it with ‘woke’ content?

The answers to those two questions, in order, is yes, and no.

When I reviewed Inside Out, it was almost a revelation to me. Not only was it funny and emotional and deeply resonant, but it provided moviegoers with practically a whole new vocabulary to consider their own emotions, and those of their kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about my own Islands of Identity or used the language of Inside Out to discuss my kids’ own thoughts and feelings with them. The sequel continues on that trajectory and gives moviegoers plenty to think about—and talk about. And with so many teens struggling with various forms of mental illness, Inside Out 2 feels quite timely.

Inside Out 2 isn’t perhaps the creative and emotional tour-de-force that the original was. But it again introduces us to (pardon the pun) heady emotional concepts with wit and wisdom. It offers some really fun, seemingly throwaway scenes that, when you think about them on the way home from the theater, you realize they had more heft than you thought. It takes you into the mind of a 13-year-old girl and reminds you that maybe you and Riley aren’t all that different.

Riley’s battles with Anxiety reminded me of when I was 13. And they reminded me of when I was 33. Yeah, puberty reliably overturns everyone’s applecart. But bumps in the emotional road? They know no age limit.

And while the film has some issues (as every film does), it doesn’t come with red, blaring alarms or sirens in terms of its content. And that can allow many a parent’s own version of Anxiety to settle in a nice, comfy chair and take a deep breath.

Inside Out 2 is fun. It’s thoughtful. And it’s a fantastic conversation starter. It might not be among Pixar’s very best, but that’s a high bar to clear.

And I’ll not lie: It had me smiling even as I wiped away a tear.

The Plugged In Show logo
Elevate family time with our parent-friendly entertainment reviews! The Plugged In Podcast has in-depth conversations on the latest movies, video games, social media and more.
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.