I return to the world of Pixar for an all-time favorite!
Screenplay By: Doug Chamberlin, Rita Hsiao, Andrew Stanton & Chris Webb
Directed By: Ash Brannon, John Lasseter & Lee Unkrich
The second I finished typing my tag line for this review I realized how much of a misnomer that sentence actually is. All-time favorite and any Pixar movie go hand-in-hand for me, that’s just the way I roll! But, Toy Story 2 is a bit of a special movie for me. As a teenager I didn’t spend much time in the movie theater, I had more important sports related things to do. I liked Toy Story a good deal, but let A Bug’s Life pass me by. I went into Toy Story 2 with a great deal of trepidation. I was older now, clearly this kiddie movie wouldn’t impact me the way Toy Story was able to, and it was a sequel, we all know that sequels are hardly ever as good as the original. Needless to say I was wrong on both accounts, and that was when I took notice of Pixar as something special and realized that animation does not equal kiddie movie.
Years later I have returned to Toy Story 2 many times, but I haven’t seen it for a good three to four years now. With all the time that has passed, does Toy Story 2 hold up? Yes, emphatically even! I’m a bit upset that I didn’t make the time to watch Toy Story 2 before the voting closed on the Filmspotters Top 100 Animated Features project, because while not at the top of my list, Toy Story 2 would have been in my top five. All these years later Toy Story 2 is just as magical of a ride as it was when I was freshly out of High School, that speaks to the power of John Lasseter as a filmmaker and Pixar as the suppliers of dream and fantasy.
To call Toy Story 2 a gem of a movie would be an understatement. I took notes this time, I wanted to make sure my thoughts were in order because if I went into this review blind I knew my thoughts would lead me astray more often than not. Unfortunately the power of Toy Story 2 knows no bounds, because even with notes I find myself typing away with a jumbled mess of thoughts in my head trying to filter through my fingertips to the keyboard and on the screen all at once. I will do my best to be coherent in my review, I really will, but this is a chap by the name of Bill Thompson we are talking about, coherence about things I really love be not thy name!
If I were to begin with the technical aspect there are any number of places that I could take the conversation. Toy Story 2 looks gorgeous, the computer animation is stunning, both in the little details and in the building of an entire world. Each and every landscape the audience is privy to is fully realized. This isn’t a half arsed attempt at animation, in short, this isn’t DreamWorks. I know I just pissed off some people, but so be it. A movie like Toy Story 2 showcases why Pixar has the reputation they do for gorgeous films, and the scary thing is that as beautiful as Toy Story 2 may be Pixar continues to build on their abilities with every movie to the point where the latest effort in Up blows Toy Story 2 out of the water.
I think if one were to only look at Toy Story 2 in a cursory manner they may levy the complaint that it’s a simple rehash of the themes and ideas found in Toy Story. I don’t go along with that line of thinking for a second. Toy Story was Buzz’s story, it’s main theme was loss and desolation leading to depression and a lack of identity and purpose in life. Toy Story 2 is Woody’s tale, it’s main theme is that of the life lived versus the life left behind. Toy Story 2 is incredibly morally ambiguous. The narrative presents Woody with two different paths he can take, and while it is the Western way of thinking to label one as the correct path and one as the wrong path that couldn’t be further from the truth in Toy Story 2. Whichever way Woody goes is the correct path, both will involve some heartbreak, and both will leave the viewer a bit dissatisfied, but it is that type of moral ambiguity that Pixar injects into Toy Story 2 that has become their trademark and is rarely found in Western cinema, let alone Western animation.
I could go on and on, it’s a cliche thing to say, but it is the truth. There is much more that I could say about Toy Story 2, it’s a movie that I find to be timeless in its presentation, characters, humor, animation, plot and themes. But, I’m going to stop myself, I’ll save a little for when I revisit Toy Story 2 as part of a Pixar marathon I have planned for well down the line. I’ll leave you with this final thought, in a cinema landscape that is cluttered with movies yearning to say something about humanity, isn’t it funny that an animated film with toys as the lead characters says so much more about humanity?