Disney has created content for big business from content, with spinoffs, sequels and multiverses dancing across multiplexes and streaming apps. “Lightyear,” Disney/Pixar’s latest animated film, is pulled from the beloved “Toy Story” universe, but it’s a bit unique. It’s kind of a prequel, in that it’s supposed to be Andy’s favorite movie, the one that spawned the toy Buzz Lightyear who took up residence in his bedroom with Woody and the rest of his pals. So “Lightyear” isn’t about Buzz Lightyear, the toy, but about Buzz Lightyear, the character, and this satisfying animated sci-fi adventure is a good fit for Andy’s favorite movie.
Although Tim Allen originally voiced Buzz, Chris Evans took over the voice duties in “Lightyear,” and with Evans in the role, there’s more than once you’ll wish it was an action movie. direct. “Lightyear,” directed by Angus MacLane and written by MacLane, Matthew Aldrich, and Jason Headley, manages to strike an interesting tone between “adult drama” and “kids adventure,” with a serious sci-fi story that’s been sprinkled of some of the good humor and therapy-approved life lessons we’ve come to expect from Disney films.
We meet fearless Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear on a dangerous mission to a mysterious planet with his best friend and fellow Ranger Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba). When Buzz crashes the ship in a harrowing escape and abandons the team, he feels the guilt that comes with failure and feels responsible for bringing the team home. He is dedicated to completing the mission, but as time goes by, life unfolds, even when he is abandoned, but as Buzz stubbornly refuses to accept their new reality, life passes him by.
Life Overrun is a bit more extreme for Buzz in this situation: every time he tries to reach hyper-speed on his test flights, years pass on the planet even if not only a few minutes for him. His friends start families and grow old, while he simmers fuel crystals with his disarmingly loyal robot cat, Sox (Peter Sohn). Stuck on his own solo exploits, Buzz missed the boat in time and the life that comes with it.
At the heart of the film is a message about learning to ask for help and the importance of working as a team rather than as an individual, as well as a reminder to slow down and consider the cost of rushing. as expected. These lessons aren’t exactly subtle, focused on a child’s understanding of the moral of the film, though the story itself is more mature and dramatic.
“Lightyear” draws inspiration from classic sci-fi adventure tropes, and Buzz is cut from the same cloth as fellow summer action hero Maverick in “Top Gun: Maverick.” Both are lonely heroes who feel they can accomplish a mission alone, but learn that they must rely on others to get the job done. The parallels are so striking, in fact, that some of the coincidental (or not?) parallels have to be laughed at.
The movie also touches on the multiverse trend that’s so hot right now, and while the logic of time travel and multiple selves doesn’t exactly follow here, it’s the character logic that does. “Lightyear” gets bogged down in a gray area between genres and doesn’t necessarily soar like some of the other films it references. The humor is muted and it lacks the chord tugging of the “Toy Story” films from whose brow it seemingly emerged, fully formed. Nonetheless, “Lightyear” is more charming than he is, and has potential stardom in the Sox. Just like the Buzz in “Toy Story”, the Buzz in “Lightyear” has a big beating heart under this Space Ranger suit.