Film Scouts Reviews

"Toy Story 2"

by Richard Schwartz

Although the novelty has slightly worn off, this inspired sequel to the popular 1995 animated film equals, and in some cases, surpasses, the efforts of the original. Still present are the witty banter, clever situations and resonant themes. But director John Lasseter and Pixar's computer-generated animation, fairly amazing in the first edition, is now even more advanced - human modeling seems far more humanlike, the shading and texture more realistic. And while the first film kept the action primarily in a single setting, recent tech breakthroughs have allowed for multiple locations (a toy store, an airport) that serve to enhance the narrative.

Indeed, the action begins as Cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) ventures outside of his owner Andy's room in order to save a toy penguin destined for a yard sale. He rescues the penguin, but soon a greedy toy store owner Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight) browsing at the sale comes upon the Woody doll, the missing item in his highly valuable collection. Determined to complete his set and sell the private collection to a Japanese museum, McWhiggin kidnaps Woody. Meanwhile, astronaut Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and his gaggle of fellow toys - Mr. Potato Head, Slinky Dog, Dinosaur Rex, et al - develop their own plan to rescue Woody. This loyal group of toy friends battles all kinds of foreign elements on their rescue mission, and they're nearly derailed in a visit to McWhiggin's toy superstore by talking Barbies and a Lightyear impostor. When the gang finally arrives at the building in which Woody is being held, they quickly discover that their friend has embraced a new family, including cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack) and Prospector (Kelsey Grammer). Woody is caught in the middle of a difficult situation as he must grapple with issues of loyalty, identity and family.

These universal themes are the backbone of "Toy Story 2." But, like a really cool toy under the Christmas tree, "Toy Story 2" is all about instant gratification. And those quick laughs that come from the cultural references and high level puns are sure to please adults as much as, or perhaps even more than, children.

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