One would think that this should have been a very easy review to write. After all, Toy Story 2 is a fantastic film; it is a triumph in every way, a sequel that is, arguably, better than the original. And yet, for some reason, this was not an easy review.
One could quite easily begin this way: once upon a time, in the faraway land of filmmaking, there was an animation studio that put out a full-length CGI feature, Toy Story, and it was good. Four years and one other feature length project later, Pixar released Toy Story 2, and it was great. As with the first film, Toy Story 2 follows the adventures of Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) as they negotiate the dangerous and often unseen (by humans) world of being a toy. The film is not just a triumph of technical wizardry – although it is that – it is a triumph of the art of storytelling and makes something wondrous and magical for adults and children.
While all of the above is true, somehow it fails to capture why the film is as great as it is. Directed by John Lasseter and co-directed by Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich, Toy Story 2 finds Woody stolen from his home due to his being the last member of a collection of toys from a classic television puppet show, Woody's Roundup. It falls to Buzz and a team of toys from Andy's room to rescue their friend from the evil Al of Al's Toy Barn before he can be shipped off to Japan.
The film, as with the original, depicts a camaraderie among Andy's toys. Despite being "just toys" they are loving, caring, thinking creatures who want to do nothing more than have fun and be played with, and when something obstructs their goal they will do anything to get back on course. In the case of the story here, what starts out as a small problem – Andy mistakenly ending up in a pile of toys to be sold at a garage sale – ends up escalating to the point where the toys (voiced by an all-star cast) have to head to the airport and brave not just the baggage system but the runway as well in order to keep their family intact. Logically, it is utterly ludicrous from start to finish, but it is a joy to watch.