Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Toy Story 2

By Marc Savlov

NOVEMBER 29, 1999: 

D: John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon; with the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, Laurie Metcalf, R. Lee Ermey, Wayne Knight. (G, 92 min.)

The title says it all: If you (or your kids) loved Toy Story, you'll like Toy Story 2 as well. Just don't expect any big surprises. Pixar and Disney's historic collaboration three years ago resulted in the first major computer-animated feature, and, up 'til The Iron Giant, the best (though technically speaking, The Iron Giant was a mix of traditional and computer animation). Now that CGI techniques are part and parcel of so many new films, the stunning, gosh-wow visual magic of the form is somewhat diluted, the sheer newness of those pixillated color schemes a tad too familiar. Toy Story 2 suffers not from bad animation or even a bad story ­ it's just that a fickle public, myself included, has seen the technology grow and prosper in the intervening three years; it's no longer as fresh as it was. That aside, Lasseter's sequel is an engaging, often laugh-out-loud funny reuniting of the original's major players with a handful of new ones thrown in for good measure. As the film opens, we're told that young Andy, the human owner of the toys, is maybe not so young anymore. Heading off to Cowboy Camp one summer, Andy leaves behind his treasured cowboy rag doll Woody (Hanks) , who, in a bit of plotwork finesse too convoluted to go into here, is eventually "kidnapped" by the portly and greedy toy collector Al McWhiggin (Knight), a scheming, nefarious, and altogether hilarious poke at those among us caught up in the current craze of colectible toy fever (think Todd McFarlane via Seinfeld'sNewman). Instead of being immediately sold on eBay, McWhiggen hides Woody with four other spin-off toys from the classic Fifties kids show Woody's Round-Up, awaiting the highest bidder for this now-complete treasure trove of retro-fun. It is, of course, up to Woody's pint-sized pals, led by the stoic, intrepid spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Allen), to save the day. I'm giving nothing away when I tell you that save it they do, and with panache to spare, but the real treats in Toy Story 2 arrive courtesy of the film's seven-member writing team, which manages to poke fun at everything from the aforementioned toy-collecting mania to Pixar and Disney themselves. In one scene set in a toy store, Buzz Lightyear is confronted with thousands of boxed and ready-to-ship versions of himself and cracks wise about how the original marketing of the first film caught retailers unaware and maddeningly short of Buzz action figures (anyone who waited in line at Toys 'R Us three years ago will appreciate the gag all too well). With its multiple, kid-friendly messages of solidarity and the need to accept change with a smile, Toy Story 2 is a warm charmer of a kid film, and though it falls just shy of the original in terms of, well, originality, it's still head and shoulders above most of Disney's output of late.

2.5 Stars

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