Well, do YOU really care whether or not David Schwimmer gets the girl? I sure
don't, and yet that's about as challenging an issue as you'll find in most
movies intended for grown-ups. No wonder kids are so sharp -- they have
movies like "Toy Story 2" to fire their imaginations. The film's central
dilemma, albeit one that has to be faced by a cowboy doll, is a complex
question of loyalty that requires careful diplomacy to solve. This is not
just 85 minutes of mindless cartoon action, but a work that could conceivably
be shown to an ethics class, as stimulus for group discussion.
Or to a drama class, a parody-writing class, a nursery class... "Toy Story 2"
is wonderful universal entertainment, a worthy sequel to "Toy Story" (1995),
which was the first ever feature film created entirely through computer
animation. It's not quite as good, but I didn't expect it to be -- the
original was one of the most involving movies ever made. But it is even more
ambitious, and delights us in different ways.
Less of this film's appeal lies in discovering its world; it assumes
familiarity with the first movie, where we were introduced to the toys in the
bedroom of a kid named Andy. Whenever humans were out of sight, the toys came
to life, and made sure their domain was running smoothly. They've really got
their work cut out for them this time; the stakes are now much higher than a
fight for Andy's affections.
It all starts with greedy toy merchant Al (Wayne Knight) stealing cowboy doll
Woody (Tom Hanks) from Andy's house. Woody, it seems, was the star of a hit
puppet show on television in the 1950s, the merchandise of which has been
like gold dust ever since the programme was cancelled. A toy museum in Japan
is prepared to pay Al millions of dollars for the complete set of "Woody's
Roundup" action figures, which he now has.
Surely the other toys must save Woody before Andy gets back from summer camp!
Space-ranger Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) takes charge of this mission,
bringing along the motley crew of pig-shaped money bank Hamm (John
Ratzenberger), dinosaur model Rex (Wallace Shawn), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney)
and Mr Potato Head (Don Rickles). This is a grand adventure, and also leads
us to Woody's aforementioned dilemma.
You see, Woody would love to return to Andy; the kid and the toy rely on and
enjoy each other. But if he leaves the "Woody's Roundup" characters, who have
all been abandoned by their owners, they will not be bought by the museum and
will be put back in storage, which is as close to hell as toys can go. Who
needs him the most? Is it worth going back to Andy, when one day the boy will
grow up and forget about him? Is living in a museum a tolerable
These are questions worth caring about, for characters you just gotta love.
Some have criticised "Toy Story 2" as a marketing tool to sell a bunch of
toys; even if that were true, it would be okay, because these are beautiful
toys. They may have been created on computers, but they still have energy,
perfect comic timing and an astonishingly natural sense of irony. I once saw
a short film from the same animation team, PIXAR, which contained nothing but
two jumping lamps -- and somehow the geniuses made even these faceless
objects convey emotion.
With so much revolutionary technology involved, I really think it says
something that the most awesome things about the "Toy Story" movies are
elements of plot and character. The screenplay provides obvious heroes with
simple goals, but still never settles into formula; and so we never know how
much more of the story is left to unfold, we get lost in individual moments
and the time flies by.
"Toy Story 2" deserves to be analysed with more depth and elaboration than
this. But my strongest memory of the film is simply the laughter of myself,
my companions and the rest of the audience. It is a pure, innocent, visceral
delight -- good fun for adults, and nothing short of a gift for children all
over the world.
Copyright © 2000 UK Critic