Toy Story 2 ****


One Liner Review:

A pretty incredible sequel, this movie gets into the back stories of both of its main characters while taking the adventure into much more extreme directions that reach new heights.

Brief Review:

Toy Story is one of those sequels that comes pretty close to trumping the original. The first Toy Story will always hold a place in our hearts because of the way it introduced us to this world of toys, and did it by being very simple and straight forward. The movie featured one main storyline,, and only two essential locations. The sequel is totally different. Like all good sequels, Toy Story 2 expands on both the story and the characters. In this movie, our characters go way further than they ever dared to in the first film. When Woody gets kidnapped, (or stolen, depending on how you look at it,) it’s up to the other toys to save him. But while they’re on that mission to rescue their friend, Woody is discovering a whole new family and back story about who he really is. This one gets deep. And it doesn’t just explore Woody’s back story, but Buzz’s too. Talk about doing a lot. And with all that going on, this movie doesn’t forget to remind us of the first film, again and again. It really does cover all the bases, to give us an excellent film


Now this is how you make a sequel! Here’s a movie that isn’t afraid to reference the first movie over and over again, reminding us that the two films are connected and part of the same overall storyline. Here’s a movie that knows that a sequel has to walk a fine line between being similar enough to the first movie that it does feel like a sequel, but also has to raise the stakes and take things in new and more exciting directions. And this movie does it all. In the last movie, Buzz and Woody both got “kidnapped,” in a sense, by Syd, the boy next door who liked to destroy and blow up toys. In this sequel, it is Woody who gets kidnapped, and Buzz who comes to his rescue. Here, the adventure takes us way outside the realm of just being in houses, and that makes a world of difference.

The first movie worked for a whole ton of reasons, including its simplicity. Other than two brief scenes at a gas station and at Pizza Planet,  the first film took place entirely in only two locations… Andy’s house and Syd’s house. Andy is the boy who owns Woody, Buzz, and a whole big collection of other toys. And Syd was his pyscho neighbor. But keeping the movie grounded like that, so that characters in one house could look out the window and actually see the characters in the other, is what made it work. Here, in Toy Story 2, Andy’s house is simply the start and end point of the movie. But the quest of the film takes the characters to a whole other playing field. And if the last movie was a “kind of,” being kidnapped situation, (really Syd did win Woody and Buzz as prizes in a Claw machine, fair and square, and the issue is more that they didn’t belong in the machine,) than this sequel is definitely a being kidnapped situation. Woody is literally stolen by a buyer named Al, from a yard sale at Andy’s house, and has to trick Andy’s mom in order to get away with it.

Before all of that happens, however, we start with an adventure out in space involving Buzz Light Year going after his enemy Zerg.  This includes dealing with a robot army on the planet and then making it into Zerg’s secret lair. Once in there, Buzz faces all sorts of traps and challenges. This is like the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark, watching a character just thrust into the middle of an adventure, running down traps left and right, with no explanation necessary about what he’s doing there or how he got there. And it’s incredibly exciting. Turns out, the whole thing is part of a Buzz Light Year video game that Rex, (the giant green Tyranosaurus Rex toy,) is playing. And all of this will come into play again later in the movie, especially Rex’s problems with beating Zerg in the game.

Talk about a cool way to open the movie. The space sequence opening is both thrilling and exciting, and thrusting us right into the mission is pretty brilliant. From there, we are with Andy playing with the toys, having a fun adventures in the house. This one involves the piggy bank being the crime leader with tons of those green army men working for him as he holds Bo-Peep hostage. And Woody rides in to save the day. It’s a fun way to introduce us to all of the toys in the house, just like the first movie did. But once Andy leaves the room, the real story starts. Woody needs to find his hat, fast, and has all the toys helping him look for it. Andy is leaving for cowboy camp in a little while and is going to take Woody along. And so the search is on. But needing to find the hat is just the start of the problems. The next one comes when Andy grabs Woody and Woody’s arm gets torn a little. This is enough for Andy to shelve Woody and leave him behind before heading out to camp.


If this seems a little similar to the first movie, it’s definitely on purpose. In the first movie, Woody was thrown into the toy chest, and basically forgotten about, when Buzz arrived. Now, in the sequel, the dusty shelf substitutes as the new location for forgotten toys, as evidenced by Squeak, a penguin with a sad story to tell. But the sad, forgotten about storyline is just the start of the connections between the two films. In the first movie, Andy and his family were moving away, so his mom put up a “For Sale,” sign right on their front lawn. This time she puts up a “Yard Sale,” sign in the same spot. And when Woody does get taken, Buzz chases after the car in the street in a manner that is very similar to the street chase that ended the first film. So, basically this sequel covers most of the major events of the first movie in just it’s first few acts, (before really leaving Andy’s house.) And then it’s on to the new story that is fresh and original story of this movie.


The new story involves Woody being stolen by a collector named Al, (who is also the owner of Al’s Toy Barn, ( a toy store that was featured in a commercial in the first movie.) Al takes Woody to his home, which is across the street from his toy store. And it’s there that Al gets Woody all fixed up. He does this by hiring a “fixer,” to come in and make Woody look good as new. That means painting him, polishing him, and sewing his arm. But the real interesting material comes when Woody meets the other toys in Al’s collection. There’s Jessie the cowgirl, Bulls Eye, the horse, and the Prospector, (real name Stinky Pete.) And together they make up the full set of toys from Woody’s Roundup, a popular old, black and white, TV show. Al has a full collection of all sorts of Woody’s Roundup gadgets, gizmos, and objects, most of them featuring Woody, himself. So Woody is basically a celebrity here. And he loves it. He has a fantastic time checking out and playing with each of the different objects he is featured on, as Jessie leads him from one to the next. And he learns that these toys need him to be a part of their collection so they can get sold to a museum in Japan.


While Woody is dealing with all of this, his toy friends are having a fun story of their own. They have used some detective work, (including using the Etch O Sketch to draw police composites of the suspect,) to determine that the kidnapper was Al, of Al’s Toy Barn. And they are able to use a Al’s Toy Barn commercial to determine the location of the store. So now they just have to get there. This involves leaving the house, sneaking around outside, and even crossing a busy street. The street sequence involves the toys moving around while hiding under cones. They cause all sorts of trouble and even some accidents on the street, among the cars. It’s probably the worst scene in the movie, (seeing them cause all this destruction is not much fun,) and yet there is still some great humor at times, like when a rolling truck load is slowly moving down the street and Mr. Potato Head just makes it out in time, without realizing how close he was to getting flattened like a pancake. So, even the worst scene in the movie is still kind of fun. That tells you something about this film.


And the toy story scene that follows it is pretty fantastic. Especially when Tour Guide Barbie gets involved, or when Buzz Light Year comes face to face with another Buzz Light Year, who (like he once did,) thinks he is the real thing. This character stays with them for most of the movie, which is another cool twist. Having two Buzz Light Years, kind of like an original and a clone, where even their friends can’t tell the difference. And it also brings us lots more call backs to the first movie and how Buzz was convinced he was the real space rangers, (lasers that shoot from his wrist, but really just light up, a helmet that makes it so he can breathe, but when pulled back reveals that he can breath even without it.) In the first movie, Buzz had a chance to prove himself by showing the other toys he could fly, and it accidentally worked with him swinging around on a helicopter that hung from a ceiling fan. Here, the new Buzz Light Year also has the moment to prove himself with flying, and he also pulls it off by chance and luck, as he comes rising up an elevator shaft, being pushed up by the moving elevator below him that he has landed on.


So  there are two stories going on here. The one about Woody and his new friends, and the one about the rescue mission. The stories come together when Woody’s friends make it into the room where he is being held. And from that point on, we are in a single story, featuring all of our favorite characters, plus the new additions. The story takes us out of Al’s house and to the airport for the climax. And it’s here that we get great sequences in the luggage room, with tons of moving conveyor belts, and then a climax in the wheel area of a plane while it is in motion. Talk about raising the stakes. One could make the argument that this movie actually goes too far with how much it raises the stakes. After all, the hanging from a moving airplane idea seems like something out of a Mission Impossible movie, (in fact, Tom Cruise did do something like this at the start of his fifth MI film.) But here, in Toy Story, it actually works. We want the locations to change and give us something new. Sure, the two homes were the perfect setting for the quiet, intimate first movie, but now it’s time to get bigger and this movie certainly does that.


It also gives us back story to the characters of both Woody and Buzz. If the first movie asked us to just take them as who they were, without ever really getting into their past as characters of a toy company, then this sequel goes the opposite route. Woody’s toy series, Woody’s Round Up Crew, is explored, and we see Buzz have two different battles against Zerg. The first is the video game opening, but then theres’ another one, later on, which takes place in the elevator shaft. Between exploring the characters more, taking them on a new and even more exciting story, and also giving us tons of call backs to the first film, (at one point Buzz even recounts exactly what Woody did for him in that first movie, and also how the other toys tried to throw Woody out of the truck at the end of that film,) this movie really does have it all. Talk about a perfect sequel. This just shows that with the Toy Story concept, there are tons of stories that can be told, and areas of creativity just waiting to be explored.