by Michelle Erica Green

This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.

Grade: A+
Title: TOY STORY 2
Year: Disney, 1999
Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Video Summary:
Left behind from summer camp because of a torn arm, Woody sneaks outside to rescue a toy from a yard sale and is stolen by a collector. As the cowboy discovers, he is actually a rare action figure from the television show 'Woody's Roundup,' and toy store owner Al intends to ship the entire roundup gang to a museum in Japan. At first Woody wants nothing more than to return to Andy's house, but the prospect of being admired along with Jessie, Prospector Pete and horse Bullseye begins to appeal to him as he realizes Andy will one day grow up without him.

Meanwhile, Buzz, Hamm, Slinky, and the rest of the gang mount a rescue to retrieve Woody from the toy store owner. A dangerous trip across town results in a new Buzz Lightyear action figure taking the place of Andy's Buzz. And worse, an evil Emperor Zurg action figure gets activated! Can the toys save their friend before he ships overseas? Will Buzz avenge his father's death? Can Rex win a video game? What do you think?

Best For Ages:
2-5 - Evil Emperor Zurg may frighten small children, but they will have no trouble following the story.

5-8 - The age of the film's protagonist, this group makes an ideal audience.

8-12 - Older kids will be entertained by video game references and superb animation.

12 & up - Nostalgia about older toys and excellent production values will appeal to adults.

Parental Advisory:
Educational Value: Like the previous TOY STORY, this movie advocates proper care of toys and respect for collectibles. Some parents may be disturbed at the promotion of commercial products over imaginative games, but the film itself is a testament to creativity.

Entertainment Value: TOY STORY 2 features some of the most sophisticated animation ever attempted, as toys sneak outside and end up in an airport terminal. A sentimental storyline and terrific villain combine with action sequences unparalleled outside of live-action film.

Violence: One Buzz Lightyear attacks another in a toy store. Emperor Zurg shoots pellets out of a plastic toy weapon.

Emotional Intensity: Toys have nightmares about being discarded by their owners. A rejected doll sings a mournful song about being abandoned. Kids may never donate toys to charity after seeing this film.

Frightening situations: Woody's arm is ripped off. Buzz is trapped inside a store package. Dolls face yard sales and deportment to Japanese museums.

Questionable Behavior: Toys cross busy intersections by themselves, misbehave in a store, and open luggage in airports.

Gender Insensitivity: "Girl toys" are portrayed as passive and boring - as are pre-teen girls. Little Bo Peep gets placed in danger by a boy so she can be "rescued." Jessie bemoans her fate until Woody convinces her to take action.

Watching TOY STORY 2 is like discovering that the new model of your favorite old toy actually is as good as the beloved original. The last film centered on Woody teaching Buzz that he's not a hero, only a toy; this film turns the tables, as Buzz must convince Woody that being loved by a child is more important than fame. It's a lot of fun to see unpretentious Woody - who's the type to insist that everyone takes turns at the bottom of the toy chest - faced with the possibility of becoming a legend. Yodeling cowgirl Jessie, trusty steed Bullseye, and mint-in-the-box Stinky Pete all make fine additions to his collection of friends.

Meanwhile, Buzz is confronted with his past as a space ranger. First, he is nearly put out of commission by a newer action figure model with a utility belt. Then he accidentally frees an Emperor Zurg from its promotional packaging and must fight his nemesis, facing up to some unpleasant (but hilarious) facts about his heroic father. The archetypal storyline is very funny, but also resonant for anyone who has seen STAR WARS, HERCULES, or any of a dozen other hero myths.

Jessie's tearful song about her lost childhood was somewhat upsetting to a three-year-old viewer. But audiences even that young understand the jokes about Barbie dolls. A pair of six-year-olds were fascinated by the the marionettes in the fictional old television serial 'Woody's Roundup,' and everyone loved Emperor Zurg, who turns out to be a big softie. Several audience members wound up singing along to the previous film's theme song, "You've Got A Friend In Me."

Look for cameos on the video. The toy cleaner who works on Woody looks suspiciously like the chess player from Pixar's short film "Geri's Game" - paired for video with A BUG'S LIFE the way "Jr.", the story of the lamp in the Pixar logo, is featured on the TOY STORY 2 video. References to other Disney films and to science fiction classics like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY seem logical rather than contrived in this tale of commercial products with minds - and hearts - of their own.

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