What does it take to prove yourself as a filmmaker? Make a sequel that's on par with the original. Pixar did just that, but actually made an even more enjoyable movie the second time around. "Toy Story 2" does everything right the first film did, while taking it even further, expanding an already brilliant concept.
Woody (Tom Hanks) finds himself in the clutches of a seedy toy collector (Wayne Knight). His intentions are clear: Sell Woody to a Japanese toy museum for a massive return. It's comes down to Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and a small group of toys to make the daring rescue.
Originally planned as a direct-to-video feature, "Toy Story 2" impressed so many people during production, the Disney execs wisely chose to give this one a full theatrical release. It's not hard to see why. There is so much memorable material included here, it's absolutely impossible to include it all.
At the center is of course Woody, who comes to realization that not only is he valuable, but he even had his own TV show. The Pixar crew does a fantastic job of creating a fictional show that perfectly replicates such children's shows from the 50's. Even the memorabilia, from a record player to a lunch box, is painstakingly created to be as realistic as possible. You can almost imagine seeing these items at a flea market.
Mr. Lightyear still gets ample screen time, this time facing off against himself. Well, another version of himself at least. Since this second Buzz actually believes he is the real thing (just like the first film), it creates many priceless moments, including one of the best "Star Wars" parodies you'll ever see.
The new additions fit the mold perfectly. Kelsey Grammer is great as Stinky Pete, but Joan Cusak steals the show as Jessie, a toy with a past that Woody realizes he may have to face (which does create a small plot hole). It's hard to believe you could actually get depressed over a toy, but Jessie makes you wish you never gave away anything as you grew up.
This is a perfect sequel; one that doesn't make the first obsolete, but becomes completely enjoyable as a stand-alone film. The numerous in-jokes and parodies make it a must for repeat viewings, the impeccable animation makes it perfect just to look at, and there's enough comedy to pull you out of any bad mood. This is nothing short of pure brilliance. (***** out of *****)
If the first films digital transfer was something to get excited over, this one will send you into some kind of frenzy. It's almost impossible to imagine how much better HD-DVD will turn out with something like this. In fact, this is such a perfect example of how something should look on the format, it makes it difficult to go back to anything less. The only minor issue is compression, but you'll only see it if you know where to look. (*****)
Likewise, the audio department gets the same treatment. Opening moments, depicting a Buzz Lightyear video game, become a new benchmark. Audio features subtle movements from speaker to speaker, making the transition seamless. The movie has more opportunity to make use of the LFE channel than the first, and needless to say, it takes advantage of it. This is a great way to show off a system or test what it's capable of. (*****)
The disc reviewed here comes from the "Ultimate Toy Box," a 3-disc set that comes with both movies and a third disc of nothing but features. I'm unsure of any changes made to these discs and the stand alone ones. The sequel doesn't get the treatment "Toy Story" did, but there is enough material on the third disc to make up for it.
John Lasseter leads another great commentary along with some of his crew, the best feature on the disc. This is the norm for discs from Pixar. "Luxo Jr." is the very first CG short to come from the company. While funny, it's easy to see the studio would become more comfortable as time went on with their unique style of comedy.
Outtakes have become a standard for each film this group works on and "Toy Story 2" doesn't disappoint. This set hardly disappoints, especially the one that ties in with "Bugs Life." Nothing of note is left except for a "Monster Inc." sneak peek, which is available in two separate areas of the disc. (***)
There's still a ton of potential left for this series. It would be great to have a flashback to when toys first sprang to life and set up their "rules." Andy slowly growing up and rejecting his toys would also make for a nice backdrop. Here's to hoping that the quality level stays where it is.