a critiQal film review Toy Story 2 (1999)

Plot: Woody (Hanks) is stolen from his home by toy dealer Al McWhiggin (Knight), leaving Buzz Lightyear (Allen) and the rest of the gang to try to rescue him. But when Woody discovers that he's actually a valuable collectible from a once-popular television show called "Woody's Roundup" and is reunited with his horse Bullseye, Jessie the yodeling cowgirl (Cusack) and his faithful sidekick, Stinky Pete the Prospector (Grammer), he doesn't want to leave.

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  • ...despite some sappy moments, this sequel is another enjoyable adventure with Buzz, Woody and friends.

While I’ve recently gotten addicted to Facebook games, I decided to take a breather and check out Toy Story (1995) on DVD, since I couldn’t see the 3D version in theaters. With the double feature continuing to be held over “by popular demand” (as the website says), I figured I’d go back and check out the sequel, Toy Story 2 as well.

Would a re-viewing of this 2nd film provide as much fun as the first? Or were the toys getting rusty their second time out?

The original voice cast returns for the sequel, so viewers don’t have to go through the extra process of attaching new voices to go with the familiar faces. Buzz and Woody are again the main stars, although Woody takes top billing this time around, thanks to a plot involving him and some fresh faces (a cowboy collection of a sort).

Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear, still quite comical, doesn’t get as much focus this time around because of this, and his comic relief is somewhat sporadic. A new Buzz (also voiced by Tim) shows up for a brief time, and his on-screen time (including an absolutely hilarious spoof of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)) gets more of the laughs than the original Buzz.

Tom Hanks’ Woody isn’t nearly as comical this time around, as he has to deal with some major issues – feelings of abandonment and self=preservation, mostly. Instead, most of his time is shared with some new additions – the rest of Woody’s new “Roundup” pals. While Bullseye the horse is the highlight of the bunch (without saying a word), Kelsey Grammer turns in a rather serious role (at least for him) as he voices Stinky Pete the Prospector (a toy “mint in box”) and Joan Cusack turns in a surprisingly childlike performance as Jessie the cowgirl.

The other newcomer to the series, Wayne Knight (Newman from “Seinfeld” (TV)), puts in an appearance as one of the few speaking humans in the film, and turns out to just be an animated version of the character he usually plays – a bit conniving and entirely self-serving.

The rest of the cast returns in the roles viewers have gotten used to, with Pixar staple John Ratzenberger as Hamm the piggy bank, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, Wallace Shawn as Rex the dinosaur and Jim Varney as Slinky Dog, to name a few. They all once again lend a helping hand to the comedy, and further cement themselves as a solid supporting cast.

The plot is a bit sadder than the first, as Woody begins to realize that his time with Andy may be growing short, and while his view of the future may be more about self-preservation than anything else, it presents him with a dilemma that really has no easy answer – save himself by being part of a museum collection, or spend whatever days he has left with Andy. As he struggles with this, he also has to deal with the fact his decision doesn’t only affect him – whether he stays or goes also determines the fate of the other members of the “Roundup Gang”.

Unfortunately, this weighty decision does make Toy Story 2 a bit sappy in points, as he debates and listens to Jessie’s sorrowful tale of how she came to be in storage. It’s an interesting new look on what happens to toys when their child owners outgrow them, but it’s dealt with a bit too heavy-handed, making Jesse akin to an abandoned dog or something similarly tragic. While this is in part due to how attached the viewer becomes to these characters, it’s still a bit overdone, and should have been toned down a bit.

That being said, Toy Story 2 is one heck of a sequel. The film delivers basically everything a sequel should: it takes the characters in new and interesting directions, it has enough ties with the original to give the viewer a feeling of continuity, and it both brings previously mentioned – but unseen – characters and entirely new characters into the story, and uses them correctly to develop new and interesting characters that viewers will continue to watch.

That being said, there are a few hiccups in the sequel. Aside from the previously mentioned sappy moments, there is a song remake (“You’ve Got A Friend In Me”) that gets a little old this second time around, as well as a few see-through attempts to connect the two films together even more. Thankfully, with an interesting storyline and characters – both old and new – proving to be worth watching over and over, Toy Story 2 should appeal to anyone who enjoyed the original.

Thankfully, the animation this second-time around is once again impressive. But with Pixar, what else would you expect? The toys are so lifelike they make the humans look dull and uninteresting in comparison, and easily keeps the focus of the viewer throughout the film. The humans, as in the first film, are still a bit cartoonish and blocky themselves, and makes one wonder if Pixar has done this on purpose. With this second outing showcasing the same elements as the first, it’s looking more and more likely.

A thoroughly enjoyable sequel, Toy Story 2, despite a few minor flaws, is a much-appreciated second adventure from Buzz, Woody and friends. If you haven’t seen it yet (and if you can see 3D), take advantage of the Toy Story (1995)/Toy Story 2 double feature now playing at a theater near you.

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