Movie Review: Toys play better second time around

by Araceli Esparza
Editor in Chief

In what was originally created to exist as nothing more than a direct-to-video release, the Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios sequel to “Toy Story” disproved the common belief that usually movies are not as good the second time around.

Director John Lasseter, known for his work in animated motion pictures such as “A Bug’s Life” (1998), again steps into the world of computer animation to follow up on the lives of protagonists Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). The story line of “Toy Story 2” is different from that of the original film, but it was enough to encourage moviegoers to help bring in an estimated $80.1 million to the box office during the five-day Thanksgiving weekend.

“Toy Story 2” begins where it left off four years ago, in the bedroom of a young boy-Andy-who owns a collection of toys that range from Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) to Little Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and Slinky Dog (Jim Varney). The original “Toy Story” was marked by a rivalry between pull-string sheriff Woody and space ranger Buzz Lightyear.

The pair became friends by the conclusion of the film, so it is no surprise that they are willing to risk their lives for one another in Lasseter’s latest production.

In “Toy Story 2” (rated G), the plot is centered around the challenging decisions with which Woody is faced while his owner is away at cowboy camp.

The toy sheriff’s intended fate was to accompany Andy on the trip, but after enduring damage to one of his cloth arms, Woody is left behind and is accidentally placed among other rummage items at a yard sale.

Before he can be saved by his playroom friends-as well as the family dog-Woody is toynapped by Al Whiggin (Wayne Knight), a disreputable toy collector who runs a huge toy store called Al’s Toy Barn in the heart of the city.

Apparently, Woody was the star of a television series similar to a Howdy Doody puppet show. “Woody’s Roundup,” as the series was called, was broadcast on black-and-white television screens during the early 1950s and featured a four-character “Roundup” family until its sudden on-air cancellation.

Included in the collection are cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack); Prospector Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer); Woody’s horse, Bullseye; and the toy sheriff himself.

Whiggin already owns the other three “Roundup” members, but, without Woody, the gang is pretty much worthless. As a complete set, however, the collection is valued at a hefty price, and Whiggin is ready to cash in on his scheme by making a deal with a toy trader in Japan.

Woody has tried to escape and his own attempts have been met by the rescue efforts of his friends Buzz, Mr. Potato Head, Rex (Wallace Shawn), Slinky Dog and Hamm (John Ratzenberger), and the issue at hand is beyond finding freedom once again.

Woody has found his ancestry in the “Roundup,” but he has already also established another family in Andy’s room. He is left to choose his true family.

If Woody stays with the “Roundup” gang, the deal will go through as planned, and the collection will be put on display in a toy museum in Japan. However, if Woody escapes and separates from his sidekicks, the toy sheriff will be left with the guilt that he let the “Roundup” get put back into storage-the dark boxes from which it came.

The story continues, demonstrating Woody’s struggle to make the decision that will not only affect the rest of his life, but also his fellow toys’ lives.

In the process of this decision, “Toy Story 2” brings into light several key moments that are both humorous and sentimental. The plot is filled with everything from a Star Wars-like scene to another instance in which Barbie dolls come to life at a party inside Al’s Toy Barn.

More than anything, the detail and life-likeness of the entire film is what keeps viewers’ attention. Simple things like dust blowing through the air, virtual video games and characters’ intricate facial expressions are portrayed successfully through the three-dimensional quality Lasseter shows off in “Toy Story 2.”

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