At the start of Lightyear, this prequel (of sorts) to Toy Story, we are told that in 1995, Andy went to see the Buzz Lightyear movie and became a fan of the character. This was that movie. Two questions came to mind: firstly, how was the technology so up-to-date back in the 90s, and yet the human representations in the original Toy Story were somewhat ropey? Secondly, how could this movie make him a fan of the character when this is way below par compared to other Pixar movies?

Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger of Star Command, causes an accident which maroons a group of scientists on a remote planet. Desperate to get them home, Buzz has to head out into space to experiment with a fuel source that should give them enough power to leave. His four-minute test runs, however, are equal to four years on the planet, but his refusal to give up means that while he never ages, his friends do, and he finds himself in a world under attack from a robot army and General Zurg. They want his power source for themselves.

Let’s talk positives first. This is an epic Pixar movie. The scale of the adventure is enormous, and as with all Pixar animations, the graphics and general production values are incredible and often breath-taking. Sometimes you forget that you are watching an animated feature but more a live-action Star Wars-esque production. It also has flashes of inventiveness and the kind of thing you would expect from a company that has nurtured new talent and produced some outstanding, heartfelt features in the past.

Sadly, this one comes closer to Cars 2 and The Good Dinosaur than Inside Out and Turning Red. Pixar often wins over competitors because they deal with heavy, often deep subject matters and deliver them in easy-to-swallow bites for both young and old. Here, they have given us a space opera that lacks any of the heart, soul or even interest of their past works.

The problem is this is coming off one of the most perfectly formed trilogies ever (I know there are four films in the Toy Story universe, but the fourth is just a playful stand-alone). The first three films are brimming with so much memorable stuff that even the most hardened film fan cannot help but be moved by the adventures of Woody and Buzz and the gang. So let’s not forget that Toy Story 3 was so emotional, it caused grown men to weep, and I still find it hard to watch to this day.

Lightyear has no emotional edge, no deep and meaningful subject matters. It’s a space adventure with a character that you know. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Any other franchise and this would be perfectly admirable. The Toy Story franchise is like no other, and to deliver something so lazy, too straightforward, is almost an insult to those who love the series. Sure, if you have never seen the other movies and this was your first introduction, then it would be fine. Yet it feels like we’ve been cheated.

Buzz was never the most dynamic of characters, yet his imperfections shine through here. A man who hates failure and who stands for truth and the badge of honour of Star Command. Yet the film feels empty. In fact, while littered with perfectly likeable characters, the central one seems to let the side down. The introduction of Sox, an android cat, steals the film from everyone, and whenever it appears, the movie lifts but drags when it’s not around.

Even the contrived third act, when Buzz discovers who Zurg really is, fails to ignite any real excitement. Like last week’s Jurassic World Dominion, it lacks peril and tension. Even the humour is a little dull. How many times can you laugh about someone discovering a pencil?

The voice talent is solid, and Chris Evans is perfectly sound as Buzz, taking over from Tim Allen, while Peter Sohn as Sox is well suited for the cat. The problem is there is nothing much for the characters to latch onto. There is a moment that you may have heard about involving a kiss between two women, causing the film to be banned in several countries, but even that is hardly controversial compared to where Pixar has been before.

I am sure that younger, undemanding audiences will get a lot of fun out of this space adventure. Still, fans of the series will be very disappointed, and even adults accompanying their sprogs will find little for them to enjoy. Lightyear isn’t terrible; it’s just not good enough.

3 out of 5

Director: Angus MacLane

Starring: Chris Evans, Kiki Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taiki Waititi, Dale Soules, James Brolin, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis

Written by: (also story) Angus MacLane, Jason Headley, (story) Matthew Aldrich, (based on the characters created) Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton and Joe Ranft

Running Time: 100 mins

Cert: PG

Release date: 17th June 2022


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