Review: Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ Lacks the Heart of Previous Films

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While some of the emotional beats we’ve come to know and love from Pixar can be found in this story, Lightyear is a space adventure that doesn’t manage to reach infinity, let alone the stars. Starring Chris Evans as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, the fifth entry in the Toy Story franchise fails to create true excitement and will leave you longing for the charisma of this year’s Turning Red.

(WARNING: Heavy spoilers for Pixar’s Lightyear ahead)

What is the Lightyear movie even about?

Before the movie even begins, there is the subject of its premise. Even if you consider yourself a fan of the first four films in the franchise, you might be confused at first as to what this movie is and where it comes from. Apparently, this is the movie that Andy saw in theaters before the first Toy Story movie. That leads to his Space Ranger obsession that makes him redecorate his room and eventually get a Buzz Lightyear action figure on his birthday (famously voiced by Tim Allen).

This adventure finds Buzz Lightyear leading a mission with his fellow Space Ranger, and best friend, Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba). After a dangerous accident leaves Buzz, Alisha, and the rest of the people living aboard their ship stranded on an unknown planet, it is up to our favorite fictional astronaut to find a way to get everyone back home.

A complication he never thought he would encounter during his quest is time dilation. Every time Buzz goes into space, testing out hyper-fuel, years pass by for the rest of the people around him. After missing most of Izzy’s life, except for a few milestones here and there, Buzz begins to question the mission that prevented him from looking for a life of his own.

An unsatisfying flight to infinity and beyond

Even though there are some funny elements in Lightyearsuch as Buzz’s friendly robotic cat companion, Sox (Peter Sohn), and an android who spends half of the runtime trying to give our main crew directions of where to go, the movie doesn’t feel sincere. It gives the impression of trying too hard to make you like it.

Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) and Sox (Peter Sohn)
Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) and Sox (Peter Sohn). (Pixar/Disney)

When it comes to dramatic surprises, it is revealed that the evil Emperor Zurg (James Brolin) is actually an older Buzz Lightyear, disillusioned by the failure of his mission and desperately traveling through time in an attempt to change the consequences of his actions.

This twist might’ve fooled even die-hard Pixar fans, given how in the second Toy Story movie, it was revealed that Emperor Zurg was actually Lightyear’s father (during a fun, shameless battle parodying The Empire Strikes Back). The change of identity to Buzz’s greatest enemy was surely creative and more than welcome but, sadly, the action, dialogue, and spectacle that came with it weren’t thrilling enough to make it emotionally resonant.

A family legacy tries to redeem the journey

Buzz keeps traveling to the future due to the time dilation related to his hyper-fuel testing shenanigans. He eventually arrives at a dystopian time where robots hunt humans and the main objective of the original stranded community is not going back home anymore.

While trying to escape the aforementioned robots, he meets Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer), his best friend Alisha’s granddaughter. While Izzy constantly tries to live up to her last name, she doesn’t have any real field experience when it comes to fighting, exploring, or jumping into action. The friendship between Buzz and Izzy is a beautiful contrast with his bond with her grandmother. He needs to step up to the role of mentor for the young Space Rangers fan and, in the process, his perspective on his mission and himself eventually changes.

Buzz growing to be a more patient hero through his relationships with the Hawthornes was lovely and a pleasant journey for a hero who thought he didn’t need any help. There is enough chemistry between the characters to make Lightyear’s journey into self-realization quite pleasant.

The final thoughts on Pixar’s Lightyear

Pixar has established itself as a powerhouse when it comes to high-quality animated films. Unfortunately, said brilliance doesn’t shine in Lightyear. It might be a pleasant movie to watch with the family and kids will surely love this adventure.

But, nevertheless, if Lightyear dared to reach for the stars and find the heart, soul (no pun intended), and magic that other Pixar films have brought to life, it would probably be a much, much better story and its existence wouldn’t even be put into question.

Rating: ★★1/2 / ♥♥♥

Lightyear is exclusively in theaters but is coming to Disney+ on August 3. What did you think of the film? Were you impressed with it, or did it leave you wanting more? Let us know over on Twitter!

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