movie film review | chris tookey

Toy Story 2

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  Toy Story 2 Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
8.38 /10
Voices of:, Woody: Tom Hanks , Buzz Lightyear : Tim Allen
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Directed by: John Lasseter
Written by: Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlin and Chris Webb

Released: 1999
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 85

Woody the cowboy doll (voiced with all the charm and subtlety you would expect from Tom Hanks) is having intimations of mortality.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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One of his arms gets broken during play and his boy-owner, Andy, doesn't take him camping because of it. He is left to gather dust on an upper shelf. Then Woody, with his ingrained belief in all-American heroism, attempts a daring, one-armed rescue of another endangered toy - a penguin that has lost its squeak - from that ultimate toy nightmare, a yard sale. Marooned in the yard, Woody gets picked up and stolen by an obsessive toy collector (Wayne Knight) who recognises him as a valuable rarity, one of a set of toys merchandised to cash in on an old, Fifties TV show which featured old-fashioned marionettes (the excerpts we see recreated affectionately in scratchy black and white are reminiscent of our own Thunderbirds or Four Feather Falls).

Will Woody be sentenced to a life of insulated stardom behind glass in a toy museum, or will he be rescued by his old friends, spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), the irritable Mr Potato Head (Don Rickles), Hamm the pig-headed Piggy Bank (John Ratzenberger), Rex the neurotic Tyrannosaurus (Wallace Shawn) and Slinky Dog (Jim Varney) ?

The answer isn't as clear as you might think, for Woody must consider the rival charms of Jessie the Cowgirl (Joan Cusack) and Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer), to say nothing of Woody's enthusiastic horse, Bullseye. And, as these new chums point out, if Woody does go back to his boy-owner Andy, he is only going to be outgrown.

"Do you really think," Stinky Pete inquires sarcastically, "Andy is taking you to college? or on honeymoon?" Whereas, if Woody chooses life in a museum, Pete reminds him "you'll be adored by children for generations."

Those are the bare bones of a plot which carries the action far away from Andy's playroom. Oh, did I mention the sub-plot where Buzz Lightyear encounters a new, improved version of himself and is stalked by his deadliest foe, the Emperor Zurg? Or the moment when the chums are tempted from the straight and narrow by go-go dancing Barbie dolls (all voiced with a wicked lack of innocence by the little mermaid herself, Jodi Benson)?

Toy Story was very good, but the sequel is better. It is sweeter, funnier, wittier and more imaginative, with a cleverer story, more exciting adventure and unsurpassed animation. The results on screen are striking: a far greater range of visual expression, especially in the humans (who are starting to look much less like plastic), and some stunning perspectives which exceed even the producing studio Pixar's last offering, A Bug's Life.

There's a thrilling chase in an airport baggage-handling area, but that is only one visual highlight (another involves our toy heroes trying to cross a busy main road disguised as traffic cones). And the camera, which even five years ago was limited to simple movements, is able to move as freely as in any live-action picture.

With this and Tarzan, animation achieved new heights of visual brilliance. The really encouraging aspect of Toy Story 2, however, is the way it marries new technology to time-honoured story-telling skills. This delivers everything you would expect after the first movie - it's basically another chase-and-rescue story - but it is far more than a routine reworking of a familiar formula.

There are numerous riches along the way, including witty jokes about frustrating computer games and the Star Wars trilogy; and, refreshingly, the jokes aren't only for grown-ups. There's even a selection of out-takes at the end, just like the ones after A Bug's Life (and nearly as funny).

Director and co-writer John Lasseter has five boys of his own, ranging in age from 2 to 18, and it shows. He understands the tastes of modern children (girls included, but especially boys); and I can't imagine any child, from tiny toddler to torpid teenager, whom this film won't entertain and delight.

Adults and children alike will be impressed by the state-of-the-art digital technology. This is the first film to bypass celluloid altogether, and will be shown in certain cinemas via digital projection. The visual and aural clarity are stunning.

Intelligent children should also be able to appreciate the movie's hidden depths. Toy Story 2 is one of the most thoughtful films there has been about growing up.

There is a surprising degree of universality in the idea of toys being outgrown. After all, it happens to people when they are fired from a job or left by a loved one, or when their children leave home. This film finds something in toys that is not only human and sad, but also noble and uplifting.

Toy Story 2 will remind adults and children alike of toys they once loved but "grew out of". And, in only 95 fast-moving minutes, it makes time to express, emotionally but unsentimentally, some truths about the passing of time that are too often left unsaid.

Itís a movie that raises profound issues in a positive way. See it with or without a child, and you'll be talking about it long afterwards. It is a peculiar irony that if you've been waiting for a film with a mature outlook and something valuable to say about love, commitment, morality and mortality, the movie you should be beating a path to is Toy Story 2. But it wouldn't do to get too pompous or serious: the bottom line is that this picture is terrific fun.

A 3D version was released in 2009.

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