Then everyone saw it and Toy Story 1 and 2 are the only original and sequel I’m aware of that both have 100% on rottentomatoes- a rating that is near impossible to get. Toy Story 3 has an embarrassing 99% ;).
So I think folks liked Toy Story 2! And with good cause. It is a great movie!
There are so many things that are smart about Toy Story 2. First of all, they didn’t try and redo the first movie. It would have been so easy for them to introduce another new toy into the room and rehash the same story over again. But instead they go in an entirely new direction and make an adventure!
Toy Story 1 introduced us to the characters and followed Woody as his leadership is threatened. He feels jealous, frustrated, frightened, and deals with insecurities he didn’t even know he had. That’s why people related so much to it. Haven’t we all been there where a rival threatened to displace us? Where we worried we would be forgotten or passed over? Where we felt jealous and envious of another who seemingly has it better? Toy Story 1 crafts a narrative around all those very human emotions.
Toy Story 2 has that emotional core but it is mainly an adventure story. It starts out with Woody getting stolen by a greedy toy collector voiced by Seinfeld’s Wayne Knight. (When you see that character don’t you expect him to sound like Newman?).
It turns out that Woody is a valuable collectible Al has been hunting for to complete his Woody’s Roundup collection to sell to a museum in Tokyo. The rest of the set includes Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammar), Cowgirl Jesse (Joan Cusack) and Bullseye the horse.
They are thrilled to see Woody because it will mean they can get out of storage and be on display at the museum. Woody at first is dazzled by all the collectibles and can’t believe he is the star of a show. The Prospector is also very manipulative in the way he describes the museum leaving out the details that Woody will no longer be played with by children.
Meanwhile Buzz, Slinky, Ham, Potato Head, and Rex all head out to find Woody and bring him back to Andy’s Room. This includes an amazing sequence with them trying to cross the road in cones and a series of adventures in a large toy store.
There is also an entire row of Buzz Lightyear action figures and a Delusional Buzz that still thinks he’s a Space Ranger gets mixed up with the real Buzz. This gives so many great laughs and is very nostalgic to the original movie. Tim Allen is great as both versions of Buzz.
At first Woody is set on going back to Andy’s Room but Jesse and Prospector beg him not to go. They don’t want to go into storage and Jesse warns Woody what will happen when Andy is done being a kid. I defy you not to cry during this song (if you don’t then I don’t understand you!). A fabulous job by Randy Newman and Sarah McLachlan.
This puts Woody in a difficult spot, which is our new, different emotional core than we had in Toy Story 1. The original is all about overcoming personal demons where this film is about how much of our own dreams and life we are willing to sacrifice for others. Woody has to decide whether he is willing to give up his life with Andy in order to keep his new friends from a dark life in storage. It’s a very tough question.
But I don’t want to make it sound morose because it’s absolutely hilarious. The writing is so funny with superb vocal performances from the entire cast especially Don Rickles and Estelle Harris (another Seinfeld alum) as Mr and Mrs Potato Head.
And like I said everything with Delusional Buzz and the Barbies is funny. I also love Wallace Shawn as Rex who is preoccupied for most of the movie with defeating Evil Emperor Zurg who we get to meet in this movie (so funny).
The ending at an airport is stunning where the characters get mixed up in the various belts and mechanisms that deliver luggage around the airport. When you think of where they were in Toy Story 1 it is an especially amazing visual.
There is even a tense horse ride down the tarmac. It really has the feel of an old Western chase scene and I always get those butterflies wondering how they are going to get out of this mess (again like a good action adventure should do).
In the end, Woody realizes things may change but it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the moment while it is here. His purpose is to be played with not looked at under glass. It’s a sweet lesson for all of us. We all need to find our purpose and not let anyone manipulate us into giving that up.
Toy Story 2 is a total and complete delight. As I always do with these reviews I watched it 3 times over the last 2 weeks and it never felt old or tired. I smiled, laughed and was completely engrossed in the tense sections. Mostly I just love spending time with these characters.
Everything new they tried worked while still holding on to the emotional core and likability of the original characters. The addition of Jesse is the cherry on the sundae. Her journey from being a nervous, depressed character to full of life is wonderful. Her song is gorgeous and I love her spunk!
I would definitely recommend adding Toy Story 2 to your blu-ray library as it is enjoyable for the entire family. I love it!
(Also the audio commentary on Toy Story 2 is hilarious and very interesting. I highly recommend giving it a listen).
Overall Grade- A+