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Review: Good work becomes play -- 'Toy Story 2'

Web posted on: Wednesday, November 24, 1999 1:50:16 PM EST

By Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- In 1995, Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Productions created the groundbreaking film "Toy Story." That international hit raised the creative bar for computer animation and raked in more than $191 million in box-office revenue. The two companies have collaborated again, to make "Toy Story 2." The new film opens in wide release Wednesday to take advantage of the long Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend.

Theatrical preview for "Toy Story 2"
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"Toy Story 2" is a brilliant example of that rarest of Hollywood phenomena -- a sequel to a major hit film that's as good, if not better, than the original.

This is mainly the result of a perfect mixture of two essential elements.

First, there's an excellent script by Andrew Stanton and his team of writers -- Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlain and Chris Webb. Stanton also provides the voice of a new character, the evil Emperor Zurg.

Second, there's the remarkable technology developed by Pixar for the film "A Bug's Life" (1998). It's this approach they've now taken to even greater heights in this latest, stunning film.

In "Toy Story 2," Space Commander Buzz Lightyear (voiced again by Tim Allen) and Woody the cowboy (voiced by Tom Hanks) are buddies instead of rivals. Other returnees include Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts).

The story of this 'Story'

As in the original, the toys in Andy's bedroom come alive only when they're left alone. When Andy is away at Cowboy Camp, Woody is mistakenly mixed in with toys being sold at a garage sale.

Along comes a devious toy dealer named Al McWhiggin, voiced by Wayne Knight, formerly of "Seinfeld." The startling animation used to create this human character is much more detailed then that used to recreate Andy (John Morris) and his mother (Laurie Metcalf), the other main humans in the film.

McWhiggin recognizes Woody as a highly valuable collectable and tries to buy him at a discount rate. Andy's mother refuses to sell her son's favorite toy. Faced with losing a bargain, McWhiggin resorts to stealing Woody, an act witnessed by Woody's fellow toys. And the chase is on.

Swept away to Al's high-rise apartment, Woody learns about his collectable status and meets his fellow toys from a 1950s TV show called "Woody's Roundup." They're Jessie the Cowgirl (Joan Cusack), Bullseye the horse (a non-speaking role) and the prospector Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer).

They're all overjoyed at the reunion. Woody makes the collection complete, which means that Jessie, Bullseye and Pete can be taken out of storage and sold to a museum where they'll be loved and admired, albeit in a glass case.

Woody knows that someday Andy will tire of him, boy and toy will eventually part. Should he return for a few years of love and attention, or be sold as a collectable and taken care of in perpetuity? What should he do when Buzz and the gang come to rescue him?

Here lies the heart of the story. In this day of collectable everything, is it better to keep toys for their possible future value or unwrap them, play with them and, in the end, discard them to the trash heap?

By the end of the film, you'll want to apologize personally to every toy you've ever owned and let fall by the wayside.

'Toy Story,' too



As he did in the original, Randy Newman has provided a wonderful score.

Ash Brannon and Colin Brady share directorial credit with Lee Unkrich and John Lasseter, director of the original "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life." The team and its animators craft a world in which children and adults can find entertainment together.

These filmmakers have taken the 1995 characters and given them more depth, creating a new story that lets the toys interact in an larger world.

It all comes down to amazing visuals and basic storytelling -- and this is one heck of a good tale.

"Toy Story 2" opens Wednesday and is rated G with a running time of 95 minutes.

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'Toy Story 2'
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