A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 119 – Toy Story 2

Toy Story 2 – June 27th, 2010

Once again we deal with Woody and his lack of confidence getting him into big trouble. Of course, this time it’s not entirely his fault, but it is part of the plot. Then too, it’s not entirely unfounded worry on Woody’s part. It’s a sad fact of a toy’s life that eventually kids grow up and eventually toys just don’t get played with as much as they once were. And so this sequel begins with life in Andy’s room seemingly idyllic with the toys getting along and everyone having a grand old time until Woody’s arm seam rips during a particularly rough game with Andy. Alas, this means Woody is left on the shelf while Andy goes to Cowboy Camp. The shelf being a dangerous place for toys, the first step towards a yard sale. Plagued by worry, Woody follows a discarded toy out to the yard sale to save him and ends up stolen by a toy collector who recognizes Woody as a rare piece that will complete his Woody’s Roundup Gang collection.

So while Woody meets the rest of his Roundup Gang – Cowgirl Jessie, Stinky Pete the Prospector, and his horse, Bullseye – and finds out about the show he’s from and that the collector who stole him plans on selling them all to a museum in Japan, the rest of Andy’s toys set off to rescue him. Led by Buzz they track down the toy store owned by the collector, adventure out of the house to the store, explore the store itself and finally make their way to the apartment Woody and the others are trapped in. My only real complaint would be that for much of the movie it seems like two fairly disconnected plots. Sure Buzz and the rest are out looking for Woody, but I have to get all English Majory and start talking about the juxtaposition of old and new and the commodification of childhood to really connect the bits with Woody and Jessie talking about how kids grow up and leave you behind and the bits with Buzz and another Buzz and Rex and Hamm and Potato Head and Slinky Dog in the toy store. But it’s really a small complaint in the grand scheme of things.

Now, I did enjoy last night’s movie and I enjoyed it when I originally saw it, but this is the first time I’ve watched the sequel (overhype victim) and I’ve got to say it was a real pleasure. The jokes were spot on, I didn’t get Randy Newman-ed out, I admit Jessie is absolutely fantastic, the two plots do eventually meet up and spin together very nicely, and all the fun of seeing the animated come-to-life versions of the toys of the first movie is well expanded upon in this one. And I think this one had more emotional impact (I hear #3 is a killer in that respect). I admit, I cried during Jessie’s song about the girl who owned her originally. It might have been too heavy a plot on its own, without the humor of Woody joking around with Jessie later, and then the other plot with the toy store. It also would have been too static, with just that one apartment. So while the plots don’t mesh all the way through the movie, they do compliment each other nicely and the toy store part is worth it for the humor alone.

Some stand-out parts for me are the whole side-plot with Buzz meeting a still-deluded version of himself and repeating many of Woody’s lines and motions from the first movie. The whole toy store is fun, really, because that’s where you get to see so many more toys. The Barbies and the Rock-em Sock-em Robots, for example. Both done wonderfully. Again, I love the three-eyed aliens, this time with their fixation on Potato Head. I love how the toys band together to save Woody. It gives a real feeling of teamwork that the first movie couldn’t have with the plot it was given, and I think the dynamic works really nicely. All in all, it’s a wonderfully done movie and fine, I’ll use my review to ask my husband: Hey honey? Want to go see Toy Story 3 next weekend?

June 27, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | 2 Comments

Toy Story 2

June 27, 2010

Toy Story 2

This movie is one of those rare sequels that is better than the original. And it’s not just that the technical wizardry caught up with the vision of the people at Pixar. It’s a heart-touching tale of toys in peril, addresses dilemmas new to the Toy Stoy universe and has bigger adventure and more great jokes and references for the adults. By the time Pixar got around to doing a second Toys Story movie they’d had opportunities to hone their craft through A Bug’s Life and Monsters, Inc. They had upgraded their animation toolkit to include detailed hair shaders (seen here on the new puppy that has joined Andy’s family) and huge complex locations that would have been impossible in the days of hand-drawn animation (like the behind the scenes luggage sorting operation in the airport at the end of the film.) At the same time Lasseter and company have been perfecting their storytelling art, and this movie is a celebration of both technical prowess and great drama. In a computer animated kids movie no less.

The way I heard it Disney had ordered up a second Toy Story movie as a direct-to-video nugget for their money-mill. Part of Disney’s business model that started in the 90s was to keep their properties alive through lower quality animated fare for the secondary video market. Things like Aladdin: King of Thieves and Beauty and the Beast’s Enchanted Christmas. But they didn’t have anything like that from Pixar yet, so they demanded a sequel to their most successful property to date. The problem was that Pixar wasn’t really into the notion of doing lesser films for a direct-to-video market, so they crafted this masterpiece, which eventually went back for more special effects and was freshened up for a big theatrical release.

There are a couple things the film makers did to make the new movie a worthy successor to the first. For one, they created back story for Woody, creating a whole fifties retro Howdy Doody type show and companions and sidekicks for him. Unlike some sequels, which just try to re-make the first movie but with more explosions (I’m looking at you Die Hard) this expanded universe seems perfectly natural, and the aesthetic of the Woody’s Roundup show is such that you can almost believe that it really did exist in the first movie, just slightly off the edge of the screen. It seems an organic extension of the world rather than an unnecessary addition intended simply to wring money from the franchise. Furthermore, they added a lot of heart to the movie as well.

I was careful to make sure before putting the movie in today to have some issues handy. Part of the motivating force behind the plot of this movie involves the deepest fear of a toy, which is not to be played with too much or broken, but to be forgotten. There’s a heart-rending montage that tells the tale of how one of the new characters, Jessie, was abandoned by her owner when she grew up. It never fails to make me tear up, and it’s that deeper story that lends power to all the action that takes place in the later half of the movie. It’s like a dry run for Up. (Speaking of which – was that some kind of hidden reference to Up when Rex suggests using balloons to float up to the apartment where Woody is being held prisoner? Had they begun hashing out the story of Up way back in 1999?)

The movie is packed with cute references and nods to other films. There’s a Jurassic Park ref, a bit that steals directly from Empire Strikes Back (but with a much funnier outcome) and in the commentary they acknowledge that one of the bits near the end involving the use of flash photography to defeat an enemy was a nod to the end of The Rear Window. Oh, and there’s the “Cleaner” – a character hired to repair and spruce up Woody – who is Geri from the Pixar short Geri’s Game. I also think I spotted Tin Toy in the channel flips when Ham is searching for the Al’s Toy Barn commercial. So many little details and jokes.

Sometime soon I’m going to have to go see Toy Story 3 in the theaters. In 3-D if I can, since I’m such a a fan of 3-D in the cinema. And I’ll be sure to bring along a whole box of tissues.

June 27, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 2 Comments