It's rare for a sequel to outstrip its predecessor, but Toy Story 2 succeeds admirably.
The characters - cowboy doll Woody, space ranger Buzz Lightyear and their plaything sidekicks - are comfortable and familiar now. The story, however, moves up a gear - Woody is bought to complete a set of rare collectibles and is torn between returning to his child owner or being shipped off to Japan (the one major fault with the film can be found here - a seemingly anti-Japanese, pro-American sub-text that leaves something of a nasty taste).
The makers provide the sort of broad knockabout humour and gobsmacking effects (the finale is scintillating) that you've come to expect from this franchise. Meanwhile, director Lasseter tugs the heartstrings by posing the question of what happens to broken toys, or those whose owners have outgrown them, while managing to make the first film's central joke (Buzz's conviction that he is a real space ranger) even funnier this time round.
And what of the 3D version, released January 2010? As you'd expect from this studio, it's a treat for the eyes, with standout sequences including an opening scene that zooms through Zurg's perilous fortress with what would be deadly speed and cunning camerawork if it were real. As is, it drips with the panache and humour that put Pixar ahead of the competition. The 3D on offer throughout is done with style, making this a perfect present for Pixar fans looking for a pre-meal appetiser ahead of the anticipated visual feast of Toy Story 3 in July 2010. If you're a parent to children young enough not to have seen Toy Story 2 in cinemas the first time around, this is quite simply a must.
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