One of Disney’s most iconic characters, Buzz Lightyear, receives a spinoff film from debut director Angus MacLane in Lightyear from Pixar and Disney. Jason Headley and the director pen the film’s screenplay as a sci-fi action-adventure that serves as the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear, the hero who inspired the action figure we know and love. Lightyear follows the legendary Space Ranger after he’s marooned on a hostile planet 4.2 million lightyears from Earth alongside his commander and crew.
As Buzz tries to find a way home through space and time, he’s joined by a group of ambitious recruits and his charming robot companion cat, Sox. The arrival of Zurg, an imposing presence with an army of ruthless robots and a mysterious agenda, complicates matters and threatens the mission.
While I love the Toy Story franchise, the first spinoff Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins was a mockery of the character. After seeing the initial trailer for Lightyear, the route that Disney was going to this go around piqued my interest. Chris Evans steps into the role of Buzz Lightyear, which makes sense as he’s playing the actual character that inspires the toy. Lightyear kicks off with opening text explaining when the film takes place. We immediately get an introduction to Buzz and his relationship with his best friend and commanding officer, Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba).
Through a series of events, Buzz comes into contact with Sox (Peter Sohn), a robotic cat who serves as Buzz’s companion, and a new crew of aspiring space travelers. The new unit includes Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer), Alisha’s granddaughter, klutzy Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi), and the explosives expert Darby Steel (Dale Soules). Also in the mix are a new commanding officer, the overzealous Commander Burnside (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), and our villain Zurg (James Brolin).
From the onset, it’s clear that the film’s writers are catering the film to a younger audience. commend the scriptwriters for setting up a simple narrative structure for younger audiences to follow. Outside of the classy handling of a particular character’s same-sex relationship, there wasn’t too much in the film aimed at adults. Naturally, things in the movie will raise the eyebrows of purists from a continuity standpoint. If memory serves me, there was no mention of a Lightyear movie in the original film’s commercial for the Buzz Lightyear toy.
On the one hand, I’m SURE that Disney and Pixar didn’t have a four-film franchise planned back in 1995. However, if my thirteen-year-old son picked up on these minor issues, I’m sure some adults will as well.
However, I must admit I was having so much fun in the film I’m willing to let the slide. The animation in the movie was glorious to see in IMAX, and the writing is strong. The elements of teamwork, family, and trust are all here. In addition, the voice work is solid from the cast, with everyone getting a moment to shine, but I must say that the character of Sox was my favorite. I also enjoyed seeing minority characters in critical roles in the film.
While Lightyear doesn’t reach the heights of the other Toy Story films, it is a vast improvement over Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins. With impressive action sequences, genuine emotional weight, and wonderful voice work, Lightyear is harmless family entertainment.
Final Grade: B+
Lightyear opens in theaters tonight
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