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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Toy Story 2 is just as delightful as the first movie (as is the next one in the series, Toy Story 3). The plot again finds the toys banding together to rescue a fellow toy in peril; the fact that characters are separated from their loved ones could scare or upset the youngest viewers. There are also some tense scenes with characters in danger (though no one gets seriously hurt) and a very poignant sequence involving Jessie the Cowgirl. But there's no sex, strong language, drinking, or other iffy content, and kids who watch will take away positive messages about teamwork, friendship, and loyalty. Note: The 3-D version of the movie includes a couple of brief scenes that might spook the youngest viewers, like the evil Zurg trying to blast Buzz, but otherwise the digital effects are played for laughs (or, as the green squeeze-toy aliens would say, "Oooh ... aaah").
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What's the story?
In TOY STORY 2, Woody (again voiced by Tom Hanks) is stolen by devious toy store owner Al (Wayne Knight), who recognizes Woody as a valuable collectable. With Woody to complete his full set of toys from a 1950s TV show, Al can sell the collection to a toy museum in Tokyo. Woody is delighted to discover his origin and value -- and to meet up with Woody's Roundup co-stars Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl (Joan Cusack), Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer), and faithful steed Bullseye. They tell Woody that he'll be better off in a museum than waiting for Andy to outgrow him -- and he starts to think they may be right. Meanwhile, Woody's friends organize a rescue mission led by Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) -- a series of hilarious and breathtaking adventures naturally ensues.
Is it any good?
This film is stunning, witty, exciting, enchanting, and very moving, and amazingly, it's just as good as the sensationally entertaining original. The animation is better -- the main characters' facial expressions should have qualified the animators for a Best Actor Oscar, and the backgrounds are more authentically lived in. And the script is excellent. It's very, very funny, with sly references to classic films, and it's also insightful and touching, with a sort of Velveteen Rabbit theme about the important role that a well-loved toy plays in the life of a child.
In these days when 8-year-olds can talk knowledgeably about the extra value that a "mint" tag adds to a Beanie Baby auction on Ebay, it's enormously valuable to think about the issue that Woody faces in Toy Story 2. Should he have a brief but satisfying life as the beloved friend of a child who will eventually grow up and leave him bereft? Or should he remain perfectly preserved and perpetually honored as a museum exhibit? It's a hard choice, but one that gets at the very heart of what growing up really means.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what the characters learn in Toy Story 2. Why does Woody worry about his future? What do Jessie and Pete the Prospector teach him? Are they right?
Kids: What's your favorite toy? Why? Would you ever want to save it instead of play with it? Why is collecting stuff for its own sake a hollow pursuit?
- In theaters: November 24, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: May 11, 2010
- Cast: Joan Cusack, Tim Allen, Tom Hanks
- Directors: Ash Brannon, John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich
- Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
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