LIGHTYEAR Review - Does Pixar's TOY STORY Spinoff Do The Animated Icon Justice?

Lightyear has finally opened in theaters - the first Pixar movie since Onward to do so - but will Toy Story fans be happy with this origin story for the iconic Toy Story character? Here's our verdict...

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Lightyear is a movie we never knew we needed, but thank goodness Pixar decided to make it. Kicking off by telling us that this is the blockbuster Andy watched back in 1995 before getting his hands on a highly coveted Buzz Lightyear toy (who else remembers how difficult those were to find?), what follows is a rip-roaring sci-fi delight of a movie that reveals the hero behind the action figure. Some familiar beats are admittedly hit along the way, but with that trademark Pixar charm, a protagonist who wears his heart on his sleeve, and a delightful robot cat companion who steals every scene he’s in, this is a journey worth taking for Toy Story and sci-fi fans alike.

After making a catastrophic mistake that leaves Buzz and his crew stranded on a dangerous alien planet, the Space Ranger embarks on a mission to help get them home...and get him back to being a Space Ranger. That drive to succeed comes at a devastating cost, and one that leads to a genius reveal later in the film you’ll never, in a million lightyears, see coming (it also serves as a nice reminder that, after a few middle-of-the-road movies, Pixar can still find ways to surprise us). With a robotic army putting his people in danger, Buzz is left with no other choice than to team up with an unlikely group of allies to try and save the day and make up for past mistakes. Along the way, Lightyear tugs at your heartstrings, delivers plenty of laughs, and the sort of edge-of-your-seat action that succinctly explains why Andy decided to forego Woody for Buzz. While Lightyear doesn’t necessarily break the mould in terms of sci-fi storytelling, it doesn’t need to, as there are enough clever ideas and strong character moments to make this an entertaining and engrossing moviegoing experience from start to finish. 

Chris Evans is perfectly cast as Buzz. Dialling down the comedic goofiness brought to the role by Tim Allen (that's not a criticism as it worked perfectly in Toy Story), the actor still brings some humour to the role, making the character feel familiar but still entirely his own. Helping explain some of the quirks the toy version of Buzz has, Evans never ends up falling into the trappings of parody or impersonation and grounds this spacefaring adventurer in a way that makes him feel real and flawed in a manner that all great heroes should be. This is a great role for the former Captain America and one we hope he gets the chance to return to again and again. 

The supporting cast is solid, with strong performances from Uzo Aduba, James Brolin, Keke Palmer, and Dale Soules. Taika Waititi is entertaining, though it occasionally feels like we’re just getting more of the same from the actor, and it would be refreshing for him to play more than just an oddball character who delivers some funny jokes in an expectedly quirky way now and again. The biggest surprise is Peter Sohn as Sox, the aforementioned robot cat who we guarantee you’ll fall in love with over the course of this gorgeous trip into the cosmos.

Visually, Lightyear is a delight, though that’s hardly a surprise when we're talking about Pixar. However, after Soul’s grounded style, Luca’s overly cartoonish visuals, and Turning Red a far cry from their usual fare, this feels like a return to form of sorts. That’s not to say any of those films were bad (well, Luca did look like it belonged on Disney+...), but Lightyear feels ambitious and more akin to the early movies that made us fall in love with this studio in the first place. Director Angus MacLane clearly has a love of sci-fi and wears his inspiration - the likes of Star Wars and Blade Runner - on his sleeve. Some may argue that makes Lightyear feel a tad unoriginal, but the filmmaker pays homage to the past in a way that only leaves us excited for this franchise’s future. We’ve deliberately avoided talking too much about the movie’s story here - such as Zurg’s role in proceedings - because it’s an adventure that’s best experienced knowing as little as possible going in. 

Throw any preconceived notions you may have out the window because Lightyear is the best animated movie of the year and a dazzling sci-fi escapade with a performance from Chris Evans that will leave you buzzing.


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