More often than not, Pixar’s track record has been to ‘infinity and beyond.’ They know how to craft ingenious animated films that are dazzling, funny and emotionally resonant.
Lightyear helps keep that track record intact even if it doesn’t exactly hit a home run.
Equal parts spin-off and origin story of the Toy Story franchise, this sci-fi extravaganza features Chris Evans as the voice of the titular hero. Buzz Lightyear is a space ranger in Star Command and at the beginning, he’s exploring a new planet with his partners when they have to evacuate due to the hostile aliens who live there.
Buzz, unfortunately, damages their spacecraft during takeoff and the crew has to find a way to fix it and get off the planet. This is where some of the franchise’s dialogue originates.
Buzz gets it working and decides to test drive through hyperspace. Little does Buzz know that when he goes through, it seems like four minutes to him but in reality, it’s been four years. Apparently, the screenwriters saw Interstellar and remembered that formula.
One of the high points of the movie is a robotic cat named Sox (Peter Sohn) who serves as Buzz’s companion and sort of plays like C-3P0. He then subsequently recruits a series of other rangers (Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi and Dale Soules) who provide the necessary wisecracking humor and ragtag team needed to help stop the evil Emperor Zurg (James Brolin).
Lightyear does supply a lot of visual razzle-dazzle that is sprinkled with moments of humor and punctuated with emotionally charged scenes. Basically, it’s your average Pixar flick.
Evans does bring his Captain America persona to the role and I think he’s adequately suited, but the story itself is never quite as involving as its iconic predecessors.
For one thing, Lightyear seems more content with being a conventional origin story rather than reaching for the stars. It’s also self-consciously referential and borrows from other sci-fi movies such as Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien.
Plus, in terms of animated films so far this year, I think I had much more fun with The Bad Guys. The reason being it subverted the notions of the type of story it was telling.
Having said all that, Lightyear is fun in the moment and little kids will be sufficiently entertained even if it doesn’t really reach infinity.
Lightyear isn’t exactly out of this world, but it is marginally disposable summer fun.