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IN SHORT: slow start, but a bang up finish. [Rated [G], 95 minutes]
It's been policy here at crankycritic.com since Day One not to compare to source material. So, what do we do with movie sequels? Should we ignore the previous flick? Compare one to the next? Or to an entire series? I usually try to dodge the bullet as best I can . . . but if you haven't seen the original before you lug the kidlets off to see the sequel, make a trip to the video store 'cuz TS2 makes no effort to reacquaint you with the who or why of the characters.
That would be unacceptable in a flick aimed strictly at adults, and I knocked half a buck off the rating 'cuz I have an image to maintain. Toy Story walked the fine line between action for kids and jokes that flew over kidlet heads and bullseyed the adults. It is a very rare flick that can please both demographics. It is even rarer when it does it again in a sequel.
Toy Story 2 picks up the summer after Toy Story ended, with Andy off to Cowboy Camp. Woody the Cowboy (Tom Hanks) is preparing to go, too. That's scene #2. The opening stars Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) in battle with archfiend Zurg (Andrew Stanton), which will become important later in the flick. I'll say no more. Just enjoy the ride.
Woody never gets to go to camp as he's damaged just before it's time to go. Mom puts the toy on the highest bookshelf, where other broken toys languish, including Wheezy the Pengiun (Joe Ranft) whose noisemaker is broken. When Wheezy is pulled off the shelf to be sold at a yard sale, Woody goes into action to save him. Big mistake, 'cuz at the yard sale is Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight) a toy collector, who recognizes Woody as the incredibly rare doll he needs to complete a set which he can sell to a Japanese toy museum for big bucks. When mom won't sell Woody, Al steals him.
Buzz, of course, must rescue Woody. With the help of Rex, Mr Potato Head®, Slinky® Dog and Hamm the pig (Wallace Shawn, Don Rickles, Jim Varney and John Ratzenberger) a mission is planned and the toys head out into the alien lands outside Andy's room. The sheer exuberance of watching action figures live up to their potential in the multiple rescues that follow will knock your socks off. I'm still looking for one of mine . . .
The crew that wrote Toy Story 2 could have settled for a simple rescue flick but they've done far better than that. Not only is Woody professionally restored by an old man called The Cleaner (Jonathan Harris) he meets his "real" toy family and discovers, via videotapes of "Woody's Roundup", that he was once a major television star. Woody is "reunited" with a horse named Bullseye, his best cowgirl friend Jessie (Joan Cusack) and the old prospector, Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer), who is still in his box and has never known a kidlet's touch. Jessie has been loved and forgotten, and angrily reacts to Woody's notion of wanting to back to Andy. Add a new Randy Newman song, sung by Sarah McLachlan and you've got some very touching moments.
Cranky loved it. The six and nine year old niece and nephew were shifting in their seats. The three year old in front of me was so bored she wouldn't stop talking, despite numerous "ssh!"s from her dad. That's the difficulty in writing for two age groups. The solution? Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue!!!!!
Tim Allen, as Buzz, goes to town. In the aisles of Big Al's Toy Barn, not only must he do battle with a new and improved version of himself, there's a Zurg toy in the shadows, waiting for the chance to strike! Somewhere about point, any reservations I had about the flick vanished like smoke. It's all happy happy joy joy time from here on in.
The rest of the guys get waylaid by Barbie® (Jodi Benson). The Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots make a cameo and there are a couple of media jokes to big time action flicks by Lucas and Spielberg that kept the house rocking. When I wrote "multiple" rescues, I meant it as the toys move from the quiet confines of Andy's room to a busy street, Al's Toy Barn and their ultimate destination -- the airport. The Pixar computers must've been busting a gut to get it animated, but they did and they did it splendidly. Each rescue gets bigger and bigger. Better and better.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Toy Story 2, he would have paid...
Good enough to see twice, but we have rules. If you've seen Number One, add the fifty cents back on.
"jr." Pixar's first 'toon precedes most showings of Toy Story 2. If you know Pixar's other work, you'll probably recognize "Geri" in the TS2 role of The Cleaner. Nice to see an old 'toon still working . . .
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