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With: (voices) Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, Wayne Knight, John Morris, Laurie Metcalf, Estelle Harris, Jodi Benson, Joe Ranft, Andrew Stanton, R. Lee Ermey, Jonathan Harris, Jeff Pidgeon
Written by: Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlain, Chris Webb, based on a story by John Lasseter, Peter Docter, Ash Brannon, Andrew Stanton
Directed by: John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, Lee Unkrich
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 92
Date: 12/11/1999

Toy Story 2 (1999)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Play Day

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I can safely say that Toy Story 2, directed by the Bay Area's John Lasseter, is even better than the original Toy Story (1995). The few tiny things that bugged me about the first movie have been lessened in this sequel. Firstly, instead of many horrible songs, there is only one horrible song and it's performed by Sarah McLachlan, so it's not that bad. Secondly, the overrated Tom Hanks' whiny Woody takes a secondary role to Tim Allen's more agreeable Buzz Lightyear. And thirdly, I found the theme of Toy Story 2 -- that someday we all grow up and forget about our toys -- even more touching than that of the original.

What a curse growing up is. All that energy, imagination, trust, and love are diminished and sucked away -- only to be replaced by repressed emotions, sluggishness, irony, and suspicion. In essence, that's what Toy Story 2 tackles, but it does so in a way that's such a delight that I came away feeling joyous. I wanted to find my old toys and give them all big hugs.

Minutes before Woody is supposed to leave with his boy Andy for cowboy camp, his arm rips and he gets left behind. From there, Woody is stolen from a garage sale by an evil toy salesman (voiced by Wayne Knight of "Seinfeld" fame). It turns out that Woody is part of a rare collection of toys from the 1950's and he's needed to complete a museum exhibit in Tokyo. So it's up to Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potato Head (voiced by Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (voiced by Jim Varney), Rex (voiced by Wallace Shawn), and Hamm (voiced by John Ratzenberger) to save him. Two new characters are voiced by Joan Cusack and Kelsey Grammer.

Unless my memory of the first movie fails me, the computer animation has actually improved in this sequel. The human beings are slightly more lifelike and the movements seem smoother. (There's even a cameo by Geri of Pixar's 1997 Oscar-winning short, Geri's Game.) Apparently, this project began as a straight-to-video release but when Disney saw what they had, they sent it to theaters instead.

Once again, the Toy Story writers have come up with a nifty screenplay full of sparkling scenes, homages to many other great films, and funny one-liners. I'm dying to give a few away, but I won't deny other viewers the pleasure I had. The first Toy Story was crafted by a team of eight (!) writers, who were all nominated for Oscars. This second movie sports only seven, most of whom worked on the original. Normally, too many writers spoil the soup, but somehow, this team has pulled it off both times. Bravo for them.

DVD Details: I got my wish. Not long after I reviewed the new 10th Anniversary Edition of Toy Story, Disney has released the sequel (both films had been out of print up to now). The picture and sound have been restored to full digital (transfered from the original digital source). Even if the extras are a little on the weak side, this is still a must-have.

Blu-Ray Details: In 2010, Disney released a wonderful Blu-Ray/DVD hybrid edition, to gear up for the summer release of Toy Story 3. It includes all the extras from the DVD, plus a couple of new Buzz Lightyear-hosted shorts, and some new stories from the Pixar studio. In all, the extras run a good deal longer than the film itself. It's a fan's paradise. Not to mention that the movie looks amazing in its hi-def, full digital glory.

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