Disney is a big fan of the idea of infinity, especially when it comes to their movie and television show IP. To them, a popular franchise is never completely finished and a (regurgitated) storytelling method always seems like a solid money-making plan.
Question: Did anyone really need, or could be heard screaming or shouting for, a Buzz Lightyear origin story? But remember, “Lightyear” isn’t a movie about the toy, but instead about the real character that inspired the toy. This movie is what young Andy from the “Toy Story” franchise would have draped all across his room, or something like that.
Voiced by Chris Evans, America’s sweetheart of the hour, Buzz is a young space cadet struggling to harness the “to infinity and beyond” space travel module. Every time he “tests” the theory, Buzz comes back to find all of his co-workers and friends have aged four years while he has aged little at all. Soon, he finds himself marooned and inadvertently teamed up with a robotic yet adorable cat and a team of misfit toys (voiced by Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, and Dale Soules), trying to return home instead of blast farther into the future.
Here’s the thing. “Lightyear” is a harmless excuse to exit out of the hot weather with the family for a couple hours. With previews and more previews, Angus MacLane’s movie doesn’t try to burst open any new themes or ideas with the Pixar film universe, relying instead on time and box office tested methods to tell a story that was probably told better by an animated character in the first “Toy Story” film.
While the exact reasons for Tim Allen not reprising his role have been discovered, it still doesn’t make the film feel any more like someone else’s story. Evans does his best Steve Rogers remix to enlighten the familiar material, but he doesn’t take the role to any new heights or places of discovery. It’s a rendition and a fine one, but it’s far from memorable.
That’s what I could say about the movie itself. Unless you’re new to Disney’s Pixar division of entertainment, this won’t come off as wondrous to you. With no offense to their recent slate of films (“Dr. Strange 2” being the exception), the bar-one that was set very high and has stayed there since “Endgame”-hasn’t been touched by much. “Lightyear” is another mediocre exercise in animated storytelling by the Amazon equivalent of a Hollywood studio.
The worst thing? The second half is one overlong (it just feels that way) boring sludge.
The next worst thing? It’s all pretty pointless. Yes, even with all the “Star Wars” references, which only come off as tired with the 45 different projects over Disney Plus.
And while some of the earlier scenes between Buzz and his Commander/friend Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) resonate due to the unexpected soulfulness, all of that insightful interaction between the bridges of time and friendship is dusted to the side for a thankless hero journey. Buzz may have learned a few trustworthy lessons along the way here, but the average filmgoer most likely only learned about a new feature on their smart watch.
“Lightyear” is formulaic Pixar. Second tier at best.