Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TOY STORY 2: Blu-Ray (Disney/Pixar 1999) Walt Disney Home Entertainment

At a then affirming $3 million dollar return on their investment Disney/Pixar's Toy Story was a marketing phenomenon utterly ripe for a sequel, and so it received one in 1999 with the release of director John Lasseter's Toy Story 2; a far more ambitious and introspective, though perhaps not quite as satisfying follow up to the original film. Intended at first to be a 60 minute direct-to-video release, Disney green-lit the project for theatrical release after viewing a few rough reels of the impressive animation Pixar was lining up.

Reworking the story elements to accommodate a 90 min. cut of the film, Lasseter and screenwriter Pete Docter eventually patched together a crazy quilt of narrative threads that begin with Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) having to face his own ‘toy’ mortality after his human Andy (John Morris) accidentally rips off his arm. Mistakenly discarded, but rediscovered at the family’s garage sale by an obsessive collector, Al McWiggin (Wayne Knight), Woody is later stolen and taken to Al’s shrine of forgotten toys.

At Al’s apartment, Woody is introduced to the other toys of his vintage and design; Cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack) and Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer) who eventually convince Woody that his future is with Al and his plans to sell them all to a toy museum in Tokyo.

In the mean time, having witnessed Woody's kidnapping, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) arrives at Al's apartment with a litany of Andy's toys in tow. Buzz comes face to face with a newer model of his self - who has yet to realize that he is a toy - and also with Emperor Zurg - his television arch-nemesis. In the resulting pandemonium, Woody is packed away by Al along with Jessie and Stinky Pete and carted to the airport en route to Tokyo. But all is not lost. Buzz has a showdown with Stinky Pete and Woody and Jessie are rescued and returned to Andy's house.

In the final moments of the film a sobering message emerges; that although time erodes every toy's usefulness and popularity with their human counterparts, there is friendship amongst these forgotten and cast off plastic play things that will forever remain eternal.

Toy Story 2 is ambitious in its story-telling. Yet, there is something too frenetic about its pacing to make the story completely work; too much plot and subplot to flood 90 minutes of screen time and over engage the audience at a breakneck speed. We don't really get to relate to the new toys in this sequel. Jessie, Stinky Pete and the others are more cardboard and one dimensional than the returning cast members.

Quite simply, there isn't any time to flesh out the character of Cowgirl Jessie and this is particularly dissatisfying because in the last third of the movie we are supposed to relate to her growing romantic attachment toward Woody.

The visuals in Toy Story 2 are far more impressive than those in the first movie, yet, at times, they too suffer from an overabundance of visual stimulation. There's too much to look at - too much to appreciate and as a result, much of what the audience sees gets glossed over or forgotten in favor of moving the story along to its next plot point.

In the final analysis, Toy Story 2 is not a bad movie - but it does fail to meet the fundamental challenge blissfully achieved by its predecessor; to envelope, inhabit and populate the realm of a child's imagination with simple - though not simplistic - appreciation for the art of the exercise.

In one of the most bizarre marketing decisions to hit the DVD/Blu-Ray market, Disney Home Entertainment has chosen to release Toy Story 2 in either a standard DVD show box or in a Blu-Ray show box - both editions including one copy of the film on standard DVD plus their miraculous Blu-Ray transfer. In a word, the image on the Blu-Ray is breathtaking! Overall image resolution takes a quantum leap forward in virtually all respects. Colors are richer and deeper.

Fine details are evident throughout. Textures on the toys jump forth from the screen with an almost third dimension. The audio is Tru-lossless HD and superbly nuanced. Over 60 minutes of extras that are mostly confined to direct imports from the studio's previously issued DVD, including a making of documentary, short subjects, new interactive 'game' features and a sneak peak at Toy Story 3. Highly recommended.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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