Today! Because you never forget kids like Emily or Andy, but they forget you –
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Directed by John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, Lee Unkrich
Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack (x2), Kelsey Grammer, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger (x2), Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Annie Potts, Wayne Knight (x2), Laurie Metcalf (x2), Estelle Harris, John Morris, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Stanton, Jodi Benson
The middle child of quite possibly the greatest film trilogy in history, and also the first movie I saw at the Cinemark in Moosic – a theater still open to this day (as of this writing, anyway), Toy Story 2 doesn’t have the benefit of introducing us to the toy world (even though it does add a bunch of great new characters), nor does it get to wrap things up to such devastating effect as the third film did, the first sequel is nonetheless a monumentally great film.
(Again, for your edification, as of this writing the fourth film has not been released. In fact, the first teaser trailer for that movie literally came out today – for you Set of 400 sleuths trying to determine when the hell I actually strung these drafts together.)
More a pure action movie than either of the other films, 2 is basically a rescue mission when Woody gets stolen by a toy collector, prepared to sell his Woody’s Roundup collection to a museum in Japan. It’s a rip-roaring adventure, effectively expanding on the universe without getting too carried away with itself, while piling on loads of jokes – especially through the terrific sub-plot pitting Buzz Lightyear against Emperor Zurg and other Buzz figures.
In another odd bit of reconsideration (that I think I’ve mentioned my mind does in the past), Toy Story 2 also functions as a sturdy prequel to the epic that is Toy Story 3. I’m not sure what movie I said this about previously, but in some cases I tend to think of prior films in a series that were inferior (or that I saw less) more as prequels than as originals. The first two Vacation movies, for example, I often think of as prequels to Christmas Vacation. Batman Begins barely functions as a movie without the existence of the next two films, so I don’t consider that anything but a prequel. Makes sense? I know it doesn’t make perfect sense, but it’s where my brain goes. Weirdly, Toy Story 2 is not only a great sequel, but it prepares you well for what’s to come, whether they could’ve realized this eleven years beforehand or not.
This movie was also famously slated to be a direct-to-video film, like many Disney animated offerings of the time, and it was only once they started to see the product being developed that it earned a theatrical release. And then(!), they got locked into a release date, and had to bang out this whole movie in like nine months, which is astounding considering the caliber of film that came as the result. It’s no wonder that another sequel wouldn’t arrive for over a decade! And nearly another decade passed before 4! Was it any good? It was, right? It had to be. Did they finally just end up in a museum? Did Andy need to enlist them for some sort of college drinking game? What could the plot of 4 possibly be? I’m pretty excited to find out.
And yes, this might be the greatest trilogy in history – we can get into this later (spoiler alert), but seriously, what other three-film set is as solid across the board as this one? The Lord of the Rings is great, but I could’ve done without some of that in the second and third movies. The original Star Wars trilogy, sure, but Return of the Jedi gets a touch carried away with those Ewoks. The Before Sunrise movies? I mean, they’re all kinda the same, but sure, they’re all good. I’m not saying this is my favorite trilogy (oh ho, another option for future list making!), but I do think it might be the best. Maybe. Weigh in, if you’re so smart!
Winner of Best Comedy/Musical Motion Picture at the Globes is no mean feat for an animated sequel (even at the Globes), but otherwise was nominated for Best Song for “When She Loved Me” in a bunch of places, including the Oscars – one of Randy Newman’s litany of nods before finally winning in 2002 for “If I Didn’t Have You” from Monsters Inc.
As surprised as we both are to discover this is the great Tom Hanks’ first appearance on the list, are you more or less shocked to find four new Two-Timers from this eclectic cast? I sure am – Wayne Knight, Laurie Metcalf, John Ratzenberger, and Joan Cusack all appeared previously, but I could only remember Cusack off the top of my head, because #253 My Blue Heaven wasn’t that long ago. However, Knight and Metcalf both have small roles in that center of the Two-Timers universe, #357 JFK (now featuring 15 members in the club!), while Ratzenberger appeared in a small pre-Cheers part in #305 Superman. Huh!