Toy Story 2 – 3-D

Toy Story 2 (1999): United States – directed by John Lasseter, co-directed by Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich

Rated G by the MPAA – contains talking toys

Toy Story 2 is to James Cameron’s Aliens as Toy Story (reviewed here) is to Ridley Scott’s Alien.  The universe and characters are established, allowing the director to let loose with action and fun. And the results are wonderful.

This time around Woody and Buzz (voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen respectively) have gotten settled into their new lives.  They are both Andy’s favorite toys, playing happily together in the same universe (that’s the space marine/Old West universe, in case you were wondering.)  But there wouldn’t be a movie if no problem arose for our heroes to solve.

After a mix-up at a garage sale, Woody falls into the hands of a nefarious toy collector (voice of Wayne Knight) who knows what Woody is: the last piece in his valuable collection of Sheriff Woody paraphernalia.  It’s a good thing Buzz is standing by to lead a group of brave toys across town to the toy collector’s lair.

There’s a great deal more action in Toy Story 2.  This action ranges from Buzz battling a Zurg boss to the toys trying to figure out how to get across a busy intersection.  There are some additional characters, too, primarily Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl (voice of Joan Cusack.)  While I found her to be generally annoying, she’s not a bad addition.  She’s a little crazier and louder than any of the other characters, but it never gets too out of balance.

By adding new characters they slightly expand the Toy Story universe.  At the same time they deftly maintain the balance between overdoing it (and diluting the characters we love) and not doing enough to separate the movie from its predecessor.  Leave it to Pixar to not even think about making a sequel unless they are confident that their story is top-notch.  Once again there is nothing extraneous; it’s tightly edited and controlled, making sure the entire movie is as perfect as possible.

Most of the original voice cast is back, with a few of the characters getting some added screen time.  Rex’s (voice of Wallace Shawn, of “inconceivable” The Princess Bride fame) adventure involving Buzz’s newest videogame is fun, allowing for the Pixar team to pay homage to Star Wars.  In fact, the whole movie is just plain fun.  There is one scene involving Jessie and her owner, who grew up and had no use of Jessie any longer.  This scene is the most emotional in the movie, sort of like the beginning ten minutes of Up.  I would venture to say that it feels slightly out of place here, but that’s only because the whole rest of the movie is so upbeat.  It’s not a bad scene, by any stretch of the imagination, and I felt it added to the film.  It also makes me wonder if it’s some sort of foreshadowing about what will be in Toy Story 3.

The outtake reel during the end credits is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in ages.  It’s reminiscent of what Jackie Chan used to do at the end of so many of his films, though the animated tradition was begun by Pixar earlier than this film.  In any case, I almost split a lung laughing, it was so amazing.  The film makes a perfect companion piece to Toy Story, and Disney’s ploy of getting everyone excited for part 3 has worked.  I will be very interested to see how they change it up for next year’s sequel.

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