As somebody who isn’t overly enamoured by the extremely successful Toy Story films, this Buzz Lightyear spin-off at least felt like something fresh for the Disney Pixar series.
Toy Story 4 felt like the end of the main story for the mostly popular films, so Lightyear – which is the origin story for Buzz – seems a natural place for the franchise to turn.
If you’re not familiar with Toy Story in any way, Buzz Lightyear (then voiced by Tim Allen) is one of Andy’s favourite toys and perhaps second in command to Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks).
I’ll be amazed if you’ve managed to swerve his “to infinity and beyond” catchphrase, but if you have it’s safe to assume that he’s based on an astronaut.
But why was he a popular and mass-produced toy in Toy Story lore?
Lightyear is here to fill in that blank, as we’re given the film his toy is based on.
This is a much younger Buzz, so Captain America himself Chris Evans (somewhat controversially) replaces Allen as the voice of the titular character.
For what it’s worth, I think that change works perfectly and Evans manages to bring his usual charisma to the role.
Taking on what many would consider to be a legendary character who has been so well-voiced by Allen over the years could have been seen as risk, but Evans certainly isn’t one of Lightyear’s (many) problems.
Likewise, the voice acting from Uzo Aduba, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn and the always amusing Taika Waititi is also very impressive throughout.
There’s not really much to the overall plot in Lightyear. We meet Buzz and fellow Space Ranger Alisha Hawthorne (Aduba) when their ship makes a stop on an uncharted planet.
The visuals here are great, in true Pixar style, but the prognosis isn’t so good for our hero as he and the crew soon become marooned on the hostile planet and must find a way to get home.
With Buzz taking the lead on how to fix their ship, he must discover how to reach hyperspeed – otherwise he and his friends have no prospect of escaping.
There’s plenty more to the story than that, but saying too much really would delve into spoiler territory.
With Buzz, naturally, wanting to finish his mission, he stays in full on Space Ranger mode while others around him live their lives.
Indeed, Alisha enjoyes a warm lesbian relationship with another character – something that has been widely reported due to its perceived controversy.
It’s a nicely done and uplifting story thread that really shouldn’t offend anyone, but such is the world we live in.
Buzz’s best relationship is with Sox (voiced by Sohn), who is a robotic cat.
It’s not as bad as it sounds and Sox certainly does his best to steal the show as the film progresses.
Overall, it’s a typical feel-good Pixar fare that both looks and, thanks to Michael Giacchino’s score, sounds the part.
However, it’s also fair to say that I spent plenty of time wondering what the point of this origin story was.
The plot is very run-of-the-mill and, if I’m honest, drags on a little too long – even at 1.45hrs.
While I enjoyed Lightyear more than the largely dull Toy Story 4 and appreciated the voice acting, it’s just not a film that I’d rush to see again.
With the final post-credits scene (there’s three of them, including one after the Pixar branding at the very end) hinting at a possible sequel, I just don’t think it was good enough to merit one.
Hopefully there’s plenty to enjoy for children and older Toy Story enthusiasts, but it’s hard to recommend Lightyear to anybody who doesn’t fall into that bracket.
That’s because, despite looking and sounding great and boasting a great cast, Buzz’s orgin story just feels like it wasn’t really needed.
Voice Verdict: 6.5/10 (reviewed at Boston Savoy)
+ Chris Evans excels as Buzz Lightyear
+ Great voice cast
+ Looks and sounds amazing
– Largely dull story
– Struggles to justify its existence
Boston Savoy (Friday, June 24 to Thursday, June 30)
10.30am (Sat/Sun), 11am (Wed), 2pm (daily), 5.30pm (daily), 8pm (daily)
THE BLACK PHONE (15)
3.40pm (not Sun), 6pm (daily), 8.50pm (daily)
JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION 2D (12A)
10.30am (Sat/Sun), 12.30pm (Sat/Sun/Wed), 2.15pm (Fri/Mon/Tue/Thur), 2.30pm (Wed), 5.40pm (daily), 8.15pm (daily)
LIGHTYEAR 2D (PG)
10am (Sat/Sun), 12.30pm (Sat/Sun), 3pm (daily), 5.20pm (daily), 8.45pm (not Mon)
TOP GUN: MAVERICK (12A)
11am (Wed), 2.20pm (Fri/Mon/Tues/Thur), 2.45pm (Sat), 5.15pm (not Sat), 5.40pm (Sat),
GEORGE MICHAEL FREEDOM UNCUT
PARENT AND BABY
THE BLACK PHONE (15)
JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION (12A)