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'Toy Story 2' Movie Review

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

By

Toy Story 2 Photo

Buzz and Woody argue in 'Toy Story 2.'

© Disney/Pixar
More than a decade after its release, Toy Story 2 remains one of the best sequels ever made and Pixar's most accomplished film to date (although last year's Up came awfully close to topping it). The movie essentially takes everything that was great about the original and improves on it exponentially, with the final result that rare cinematic achievement that has something in it for everyone.

The Story

Picking up shortly after the events of the first film, Toy Story 2 opens as Woody (Tom Hanks) is preparing to spend a weekend at summer camp with his beloved owner Andy. After Andy accidentally damages Woody while playing with him, however, Woody finds himself relegated to a shelf containing dusty children's books and a damaged squeak toy named Wheezy. With Andy gone, Andy's mother sweeps through his room looking for items to sell at a yard sale – with Wheezy snatched along with a host of other forgotten childhood relics.

Woody subsequently embarks on a mission to rescue his malfunctioning friend, although his efforts backfire as he’s grabbed by greedy collector/toy-store owner Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight). Back at Al’s apartment, Woody is shocked to discover that he’s an extremely rare, extremely valuable toy that has its origins in a popular 1950s television series called Woody’s Roundup – where the affable cowboy once shared the screen with his loyal horse Bullseye, a yodeling sidekick named Jessie (Joan Cusack), and kindly old prospector Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer).

Toy Story 2 Photo

Woody meets Jessie in 'Toy Story 2.'

© Disney/Pixar

Meanwhile, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and several of Andy’s toys head out into the world to save Woody from his apparent kidnapper – with their quest finally leading them to Al’s massive toy emporium. There, the gang encounters some familiar faces (including Barbie and an entire aisle full of Buzz Lightyears) and eventually learns that Woody is being held in Al’s apartment across the street. The arrival of his friends forces Woody to make a difficult choice: Does he return to his comfortable life in Andy’s room or does he embark on a new adventure with Jessie, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete?

The Voice Cast

Toy Story 2 boasts the return of virtually all of the original’s exceptional voice actors, with Hanks and Allen’s superb, consistently enthralling work matched by a supporting cast that includes Don Rickles, Jim Varney, and Pixar regular John Ratzenberger. The movie also features a number of newcomers to the Toy Story universe, and while both Grammer and Knight are admittedly quite good in their respective roles, Joan Cusack stands out as the Most Valuable Player thanks to her consistently enthralling turn as the rambunctious Jessie. Given that the character ultimately stands as the movie’s emotional center – I dare you to sit through the heartbreaking montage detailing Jessie’s tragic past without feeling a lump in your throat – Cusack does a superb job of balancing Jessie’s almost over-the-top energy with her intense desire to be loved and wanted again.

The Bottom Line

Toy Story 2 Photo

Woody supports Wheezy in 'Toy Story 2.'

© Disney/Pixar

Toy Story 2’s place as one of the all-time great animated movies – heck, it’s just one of the great movies, period – is confirmed by its refusal to pander to the viewer, as the filmmakers have infused the proceedings with a surprisingly grown-up sensibility that’s exemplified in the life-altering choice that Woody is forced to make. It’s easy to forget that Toy Story 2 was originally intended to bypass theaters altogether and premiere on home video, although – given just how cinematic and mature the final product is – it’s difficult to envision the movie being lumped in the same category as such forgettable direct-to-video fare as Tarzan II and The Return of Jafar.

Though only Pixar’s third full-length feature, following Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2 is as well-conceived and consistently entertaining an endeavor as one could reasonably hope for – with its abundance of hair-raising action sequences, heart-rending interludes, and laugh-out-loud comedic set-pieces ensuring that the bar has been set almost impossibly high not just for the famed animation studio but also for its various competitors.

Grade: A

Toy Story 2 was directed by John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, and Lee Unkrich and is rated G.

Theatrical release: November 19, 1999

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