Summer Movie Showdown: "Toy Story 2" Review

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The sequel to 1995's Toy Story. When Woody is stolen by a toy collector, Buzz and the other toys from Andy's room spring into action to rescue their pal from winding up as a museum piece.
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Summer Movie Showdown: "Toy Story 2" Review

-- Rating: G
Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: November 24, 1999
Directed by: John Lasseter
Genre: Animation/Adventure/Comedy

The second installment of the "Toy Story" franchise brings back the lovable cast of characters from the first film, along with some fresh faces, for a new series of adventures. When Woody, voiced by the venerable Tom Hanks, is stolen by an evil toy collector (Wayne Knight), the other characters must work together to save their friend.

Al McWhiggin, the toy collector, steals Woody at a garage sale in order to complete a set of collectible toys from a 1950s television program called "The Roundup Gang." Woody's pal, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), spots the theft and identifies the man responsible as the owner of Al's Toy Barn, which he recognizes from television commercials. Buzz and the gang set out on an adventure to save their friend from the greedy clutches of the villain.

While at Al's apartment, Woody learns of his value as a collectible and meets some of the other toys from his set. Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl (Joan Cusack) is a young spitfire who was given away by her owner years before and has never gotten over the loss. Although she is thrilled to see Woody, Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer) is not quite as kind to him.

Al is planning to sell Jessie, Stinky Pete, Woody, and trusty horse Bullseye to a museum in Japan, but the museum is only interested if all four of the toys are sold together. Woody wants to return home to his owner, Andy, but he soon changes his mind after Stinky Pete warns that Woody's fate with Andy will be the same as Jessie's. Eventually, Woody decides that life in a museum is better than the eventual rejection that awaits him with Andy.

Buzz Lightyear journeys to Al's Toy Barn to save Woody and encounters a newer version of himself. The new Buzz has the same identity crisis that plagued the original in the first "Toy Story" film. New Buzz believes that he really is a space ranger, and he ends up joining the rest of the gang on their way to Al's apartment. No one notices that this Buzz is an imposter. Meanwhile, the original Buzz catches up with the other toys after an encounter with his nemesis, Emperor Zurg. In the end, all of the other toys, both new and old, return to Andy's house to live happily ever after, or at least until the next "Toy Story" film. 

The beauty of the "Toy Story" films is that they have created lovable characters that appeal to children while winking at the parents watching the films with little jokes that kids won't get. Adults also connect with the films because of the all-star voice cast. Tom Hanks makes Woody sound like the ultimate cowboy, while Tim Allen plays the enthusiastic space hero with perfection. Respected character actors such as Estelle Harris (Mrs. Potato Head) and Wallace Shawn (Rex) provide depth to the supporting cast. Writer Andrew Stanton and director John Lasseter also lend their voices at different points in the film.

"Toy Story 2" grossed more than $485 million, proving that sequels to kid flicks don't have to be direct-to-video releases. In true Disney style, the characters from the film were relentlessly merchandised to kids. The November release date was just in time for little Buzz Lightyear and Woody dolls to make their way under the Christmas trees of children everywhere.

The computer animation in "Toy Story 2" lives up to the Pixar name, and the characters in the film come to life in a way that traditional animation could never replicate. Even though the technology is now nearly two decades old, "Toy Story 2" has proven that it has staying power. The 3-D release of the film in 2009 was a huge success and introduced a new generation of kids to the misadventures of Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toys. Not surprisingly, the 3-D release came just a year before the newest installment of the franchise, "Toy Story 3," was released. 

Not all kids movies are made to be enjoyed by the whole family. Not only does "Toy Story 2" appeal to both children and adults, it is also still relevant nearly fifteen years after its release. Parents looking for a funny and sweet film to watch with the kids should absolutely add "Toy Story 2" to the list of flicks for family movie night.

Rating: 4 out of 5