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Posted by Addie Pray on November 18, 1999 at 09:32:32:


Here's VARIETY's review by Todd McCarthy:

''Toy Story 2'' boasts bigger buzz

Toy Story 2 (Animated comedy, color, G, 1:32)

By Todd McCarthy, Daily Variety Chief Film Critic

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - In the realm of sequels, ``Toy Story 2'' is to ``Toy
Story'' what ``The Empire Strikes Back'' was to its predecessor, a richer,
more
satisfying film in every respect.

The comparison between these two franchises will be pursued no further,
given
their utter dissimilarity. But John Lasseter and his team, their confidence
clearly bolstered by the massive success of their 1995 blockbuster, have
conspired to push the new entry further with fresh characters, broadened
scope,
boisterous humor and, most of all, a gratifying emotional and thematic
depth.
Disney and Pixar have an end-of-year behemoth here, one that, given its far
greater appeal to girls by virtue of its female co-lead, could easily
surpass
the $362 million grossed by ``Toy Story'' worldwide.

The only thing this sparkling picture lacks, by definition, is the shock of
the
new; four years ago, it was startling to behold the frontier that computer
animation had conquered, to see what vast possibilities were now available
in
the whole field of animation. But there is no sense of complacency or
sameness,
as the filmmakers get their charges out of the house and into a situation
that
gives their lives more poignancy and awareness of mortality than, frankly,
most
characters in live-action films are accorded these days.

After an overly assaultive outer-space teaser that will nonetheless serve
its
purpose of getting kids to shut up and pay attention, brisk set-up sees the
affable Woody eagerly anticipating being taken to a summer Cowboy Camp by
his
owner, Andy. But excitement quickly turns to crushing disappointment when a
``broken'' arm causes Woody to be left behind, with Andy's mom adding the
final
sting with the comment, ``Toys don't last forever.''

Woody's nightmare of being flung into the trash heap of broken toys comes
true
when he inadvertently lands in a yard-sale 25 cent bin, from which he's
kidnapped by the greedy Al McWhiggin, owner of the local Al's Toy Barn, who
knows something that Woody himself doesn't -- that Woody was a big TV star
back
in the '50s.

Stashed in a downtown building, Woody meets cowgirl Jessie, Stinky Pete the
Prospector and a horse named Bullseye and, in a wonderfully entertaining
interlude, learns of his long-ago celebrity on a show called ``Woody's
Roundup,'' a kids' favorite in which Woody and his new acquaintances were
puppets. Not only that, but a whole line of commercial products revolved
around
the show, including the cereal Cowboy Crunchies. Al's impressive collection
of
Woody memorabilia was incomplete without its centerpiece, but now that Woody
is
safely in hand, Al plans to cash in by selling the whole set to a museum in
Japan.

Locked in a high-rise room with his torn limb, there is nothing Woody can do
to
save himself, so it's up to spaceman Buzz Lightyear and Andy's other toys,
including Rex the dinosaur, Hamm the pig, Mr. Potato Head and Slinky Dog, to
mount a rescue expedition. They head first for the Toy Barn, where some
Barbies
come to delightful life and Buzz is astonished to find hundreds of exact
replicas of himself on the shelves -- one of whom throws a monkey wrench
into
the search for Woody by boxing Buzz up and taking his place on the team.

Back in the building, the normally rambunctious Jessie begins tugging at
Woody's
heart -- as well as that of the viewer -- by pointing out that, unlike
Woody,
who has enjoyed many years with a loving owner, she has endured a long
purgatory
in storage, bereft of any life worth living.

In the film's main and moving new song, ``When She Loved Me,'' penned by
Randy
Newman and sung by Sarah McLachlan, Jessie recalls how she once had an
enchanted
relationship with a girl, one that she thought could never end, but that
after
her owner outgrew her, she ended up, like so many other toys, in a Donation
box.
It's the fate of all toys, she ruefully reflects, to outlive their
usefulness,
so the prospect of Japan for her at least means that she will provide
pleasure
again and have some purpose in life.

Caught up short by this intimation of mortality, Woody suddenly finds
himself
conflicted, torn between the ``blood'' family of his old TV cohorts and his
closest friends from Andy's house. Arrival of the rescue party puts his true
loyalty to an immediate test, one complicated by Al's decision to leave at
once
for Japan. Dynamite action climax, which proceeds through a maze-like
roller-
coaster ride on airport baggage ramps, into the belly of a jet and out onto
the
landing gear during takeoff, deftly combines a modern setting with rousing
cowboy heroics, while resolution of the main characters' fates has a sweetly
philosophical ring that satisfies while still taking into account the darker
issues raised earlier.

Visually, ``Toy Story 2'' is entirely of a piece with its predecessor,
distinguished by the same endearing character design and reality-nudging
peripheral details. But the new
offering is even more densely packed with rollicking humor than the first,
thanks to the addition of more characters and incident; jokey revelation of
Buzz's parentage will bring down the house at every screening. A sense of
spirited invention permeates the proceedings from top to bottom, and few
films
so thoroughly deliver the feeling that everyone connected to it was united
in
pursuit of a single goal and had matchless fun reaching it.

Adding to this spirit are the outstanding voicings by a stellar cast. Back
for
another round are Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz and supporting
players
Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, John
Morris, Laurie Metcalf and R. Lee Ermey. Important newcomers are Joan Cusack
as
Jessie, the rip-snorting cowgirl whose heart aims true, and Kelsey Grammer
as
the crusty prospector, both of whom match the energy and elan of the
veterans.
Newman's scoring is busy and spirited.

Voices:

Woody ....................... Tom Hanks
Buzz Lightyear .............. Tim Allen
Jessie ...................... Joan Cusack
Stinky Pete the Prospector .. Kelsey Grammer
Mr. Potato Head ............. Don Rickles
Slinky Dog .................. Jim Varney
Rex ......................... Wallace Shawn
Hamm ........................ John Ratzenberger
Bo Peep ..................... Annie Potts
Al McWhiggin ................ Wayne Knight
Andy ........................ John Morris
Andy's Mom .................. Laurie Metcalf
Mrs. Potato Head ............ Estelle Harris
Sarge ....................... R. Lee Ermey
Barbie ...................... Jodi Benson
The Cleaner ................. Jonathan Harris
Wheezy ...................... Joe Ranft
Emperor Zurg ................ Andrew Stanton
Aliens ...................... Jeff Pidgeon

A Buena Vista Pictures release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a
Pixar
Animation Studios film. Produced Helene Plotkin, Karen Robert Jackson.
Executive
producer, Sarah
McArthur.

Directed by John Lasseter. Co-directors, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon.
Screenplay,
Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlin, Chris Webb, original story by
Lasseter, Pete Docter, Brannon, Stanton. Camera (Monaco Labs color,
Technicolor
prints), Sharon Calahan; editors, Edie Bleiman, David Ian Salter, Unkrich;
music, Randy Newman; production designers, William Cone, Jim Pearson;
supervising technical director, Galyn Susman; story supervisors, Dan Jeup,
Joe
Ranft; supervising animator, Glenn McQueen; sound designer (Dolby
Digital/SDDS/
DTS), Gary Rydstrom; supervising sound editor, Michael Silvers; casting,
Ruth
Lambert, Mary Hidalgo. Reviewed at the El Capitan Theater, L.A., Nov. 6,
1999.

Reuters/Variety

00:23 11-18-99


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