Thursday, March 7, 2013

Movie Review: Toy Story 2

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Everything
Cons: You're kidding, right?
The Bottom Line:
Revisit old friends
And make new ones in this brand
New, fun adventure

Collectible Sequel

Things have calmed down in the world of Andy's room. Woody the cowboy doll (Tom Hanks) and space ranger Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) have learned to get along and are in fact great friends. Even the addition of a puppy hasn't changed things much.

Andy is getting ready to go to cowboy camp for the weekend, and Woody can't wait. This is the highlight of the year because of the one on one time they spend together. Unfortunately, right before Andy leaves, he accidentally rips one of Woody's arms. Andy decides to leave a dejected Woody behind so nothing more happens to him.

The next morning, Woody is horrified to see Andy's mom is having a yard sale. Trying to rescue another toy, Woody accidentally gets discovered by Al, a greedy collector, and toy napped.

Seems Woody isn't any ordinary toy. He's a valuable collectible based on a popular TV show from the 50's. In Al's apartment, Woody meets the rest of the action figured based on his TV show and learns just how valuable he really is.

Buzz, meanwhile, is trying to track down his friend. He leads a rescue party that includes Mr. Potato Head, Slinky Dog, Rex the dinosaur, and Hamm the piggy bank. But will Woody want to be rescued if they find him?

This is a rarity in Hollywood, a sequel that is better then the original. While Toy Story entertains, Toy Story 2 surpasses it. There is a very simple reason for this, too. This movie takes the characters we love and builds on them while giving us a completely new story. Too many sequels feel like retreats of the original, but, while this movie has lots of nods to the original, it doesn't restrict itself to things we have already seen.

This is shown right from the start by showing that Woody and Buzz are still friends. While in the first movie, Andy had Buzz fighting Woody, now Andy has them teamed up to save Bo Peep. Once Woody is toy napped, which happens pretty quickly, the action leave Andy's room and only return for the final scene, a departure from the original.

Plus the story they tell is extremely entertaining. I don't know now many times I've seen the movie since it first came out, but I always get completely caught up in events just like the first time. The pace is quick and humor is plentiful, with several parodies of famous movies and jokes about American culture. They even find a way to bring back delusional Buzz, and he's still a riot. The story does take time to give us several tender moments as well. And, in the grand Pixar tradition, the climax just keeps going and going.

While story make be king with Pixar, character is queen. We care for these characters, which makes us invested in the story. The returning characters are still fully developed, but time is made to help us get to know the characters from Woody's TV show: Jessie the Cowgirl, Bullseye the horse, and Stinky Pete the prospector. Plus this movie introduces Barbie into the mix. While her scenes are short, they are some of my favorites.

Computer animation had really improved in the four years since the original. The humans look better, although they still aren't perfect. There are a couple shots that are truly amazing, however. The dust used in several scenes is great. The highlight is watching Woody get cleaned up. The attention to detail in that scene is amazing.

Pixar is also known for their great DVD releases, and the new two-disc set for this movie is another great example. The picture and sound, taken directly from their computer files, is absolutely outstanding. Most of the extras appeared in the three disc "Toy Box" set released years ago. There's a fascinating audio commentary, abandoned scenes, storyboards, and two behind the scenes documentaries, including a new one. For the kids, there's a "Which toy are you?" game. And of course, the outtakes are included as well.

Toy Story 2 was Pixar's third film, and it is still a great film that will appeal to kids of all age.

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