If this was Andy’s favorite movie when he was a kid, then he needs to expand his film horizons.
The “origin” story for the Buzz Lightyear toy from Pixar’s inaugural foray into Hollywood, Toy Story, Lightyear is the fictional in-universe movie that inspired kids around the world to buy Buzz Lightyear toys at an alarming rate. Following Buzz (Chris Evans) and his crew, as they try to return home after being marooned on a faraway planet, Lightyear tells a story of a determined Space Ranger who will stop at nothing to save his people, all the while trying to survive a cosmic threat by the robotic Zurg who turns out to be much more than he seems.
So I don’t know if this movie was a necessary one, particularly as a theatrical release, but as usual, I applaud Pixar for trying something new with their properties. Feeling a bit like a side story or a request from the Disney execs to lightly milk the Toy Story franchise until they figure out what else to do with it, Lightyear comes across as a “traditional” Hollywood blockbuster that’s entertaining, to be sure, but not always compelling.
From Pixar’s highly detailed animation to the exploration of time dilation to the high-end action scenes right down to Buzz’s endearing robotic cat companion, Sox (Peter Sohn), Lightyear does a lot right yet never truly excels anywhere specific as even Pixar’s patented charm and emotion are set to levels so low that it takes a bit of effort to notice them. For example, Pixar had the blueprint for replicating the emotional gut punch that was the prologue to Up lined up and ready at one point but ended up taking a somewhat safe and un-Pixar-like approach to the scene, something that repeated itself more often than not as the movie went on.
Couple this with the fact that the story never fully pulls you in as expected (especially after a late film story twist illicit eye rolls instead of excitement), and you have a film that was fun to see, no doubt, but never rises above being a middling experience that should have been better. But I guess it’s good to know that even a mediocre Pixar film is still better than most, and for that, I was satisfied enough.
Lightyear isn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination it’s just one that felt like it could have premiered on Disney+ instead of theaters. Sure, the animation is as gorgeous as ever, and Chris Evans fits in well as this version of Buzz, but this is the first time in a long time that Pixar feels less like the emotional and compelling storytellers they are and more like a cog in the Disney machine making a movie they were told to make instead of one they had their hearts set on.