Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.
Release Date: November 24th, 1999 MPAA Rating: G
Director: John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, Lee Unkrich Actors: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, Wayne Knight, Estelle Harris, R. Lee Ermey
he visuals have gotten marginally sharper and the movement even more precise. The action is also more intense, as evidenced by the opening sequence in which Buzz penetrates Zurg’s secret fortress in the Gamma Quadrant Sector 4 (though the project still earned a G rating). “Toy Story 2” isn’t quite as monumental in its achievements as the first film, but it commendably maintains the delightful mood and high production values of Pixar’s original masterpiece. Bringing back all the same characters and adding a few welcome additions make this second outing a stunning success and a valuable sequel, complete with affecting storylines, hilarious voice-acting, and outstanding visuals – all impressive enough to garner a Best Picture Golden Globe (a rare feat for an animated feature).
Andy is prepping for Cowboy Camp, and Woody (Tom Hanks) is more than excited to be going with him. He’s in for a shock, however, when he gets shelved after his arm suffers a slight tear. “Toy’s don’t last forever,” comforts Andy’s mom, but Woody is deeply saddened as he sits up high on a bookshelf, collecting dust and discovering another long lost, broken toy named Wheezy the Penguin (Joe Ranft). When Woody accidentally ends up at a yard sale while trying to rescue his newfound friend, he’s stolen by the evil man-in-a-chicken-suit from the Al’s Toy Barn commercials.
It turns out that the rundown cowboy doll is a collector’s item from the old “Woody’s Roundup” TV show. At Al’s shop, he’s united with his horse Bullseye, his sidekick Jessie the yodeling cowgirl (Joan Cusack), and Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer). A prestigious museum in Tokyo is the next destination after the greedy Al (Wayne Knight) has Woody cleaned and repaired (by the very same character from Pixar’s Academy Award-winning short film “Geri’s Game”), but only the full set of figures garners true interest – so it’s up to Jessie and Pete to convince Woody to stay with them (to become immortalized in a fancy glass display) instead of escaping back to his home with Andy and the gang.
This time, Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) gets to interact with Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris), Andy’s family now has Buster the dachshund (he also doesn’t move quite like a real dog, but it’s a large improvement over Spud from the precursor), and Stinky Pete is introduced in the most hilariously smart toy collector joke of the show – he’s stuck inside his original box, mint and unopened. The humans are still noticeably flawed, but with Al, the proportions are purposely exaggerated. This makes him a uniquely funny, practically anthropomorphic caricature, reminiscent of Wayne Knight’s actual features.
Crossing a busy road and visiting a toy store provide new, hilarious adventures for the company of familiar childhood novelties, along with the more emotional episodes of a toy dream sequence/nightmare and a heartbreaking montage about growing up and losing interest in playthings, featuring Jessie’s previous owner Emily – a poignant forerunner to the “growing old” montage in 2009’s “Up.” All the previous favorites also return, such as the three-eyed, green space creatures and the plastic army men, accompanied by plenty of pleasant surprises, including Barbie dolls, and Buzz Lightyear’s nemesis, Evil Emperor Zurg (voiced by “Finding Nemo” and “WALL·E’s” director Andrew Stanton). This exquisite, worthy sequel even goes so far as to have fake bloopers at the picture’s close.
– Mike Massie