TOY STORY 2

(1999)
With the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Wayne Knight, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts
Directed by John Lasseter, Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich
Style: Computer Generated
Reviewed by JB and SB

    Originally scheduled as a direct to video film, TOY STORY 2 got the go-ahead from Disney for theatrical feature status when they saw how much work John Lasseter and the rest of Pixar were devoting to it.  The result was a film that may even be better than its groundbreaking predecessor.  Unlike so many sequels, TOY STORY 2 isn't just a rehash or a cheap ripoff, but rather a film that stands by itself and can be completely enjoyable even without seeing the original.  In this film, Cowboy Woody, voiced again by Tom Hanks, accidentally winds up in a yard sale and is stolen by an avaricious toy salesman to complete his now-valuable collection of old "Woody's Roundup" toys.  Space Cadet Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) calls upon all the other toys to track down Woody and bring him home safely.  Along with most of the toys from the first film, several new toy characters are introduced in TOY STORY 2 including cowgirl Jessie (Joan Allen), Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer) and Wheezy the Penguin, the abandoned squeeze toy whose broken squeaker now sounds like a severe case of asthma.  Best of all is a second Buzz Lightyear, fresh out of the box and as innocent and self-deluded as the original Buzz was back in TOY STORY

     It may not have been a necessary sequel, but it's hard to quibble about the results. 4 - JB


Orginal review written by Steve Bailey at the time of the film's original release.

    As an antidote to the Pokemon phenomenon, whose sole point is to see how many of the cards you can collect, comes TOY STORY 2 with the timely question, What's the point of collecting toys if you can't enjoy them?

    This sequel succeeds at so many levels, it comes off as the anti-Pokemon.  Even if the movie's sound were turned off, the detail in its computer animation would be reason enough to see it.  The attention to everything from the fluid movement of the toys to the smudges on the face of an old play doll marks a quantum leap from even the first movie.

    Then there's the script which, as in all of the best sequels, is so finely tuned that you can enjoy the story even if you haven't seen the first movie.  The main plotline is that the cowboy doll Woody (again voiced by Tom Hanks) is kidnapped by an evil toy dealer ("Seinfeld's" Wayne Knight) who wants to cash in on the toy's nostalgia value.

    While Woody's toy friends go to elaborate lengths to rescue him, Woody is astounded to discover that he was the star of a kids' TV show called "Woody's Roundup," which also featured a cowgirl named Jessie (Joan Cusack) and a prospector named Stinky Pete ("Frasier's" Kelsey Grammer)--all of whom are now treasured mostly for being in mint condition.

    Most movies would be satisfied to be as believable and touching as TOY STORY 2, which also manages to score some of the year's biggest laughs.  The first movie's toy characters are back, and some welcome new additions are a doting Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris, another "Seinfeld" vet), and Barbie, who is as irrelevantly cheery as you always thought she'd be.

    The "performances" here put a lot of the year's flesh-and-blood movie work to shame. Of the returnees, the best is Tim Allen as space hero Buzz Lightyear, stripped of all his pomposity and quite happy to serve as a child's toy.  (Some of the best laughs come when Buzz unwittingly unwraps another Buzz toy who is as clueless as he used to be.)

    And Joan Cusack, who is reason enough to watch any movie she's in, beautifully conveys Jessie's enthusiasm at being appreciated in whatever way she can, as a treasured toy or a valued museum piece.

    That you can appreciate these computer-created images as heartfelt characters says volumes about how well TOY STORY 2 has been thought out.  It doesn't just make the first movie's then-current technology look dated; it makes most of this year's "human" comedies look just as irrelevant. - SB

Copyright © 2010 Steve Bailey.  All Rights Reserved.  Used by special permission.

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