The Reel Review
This 2022 spin-off from Disney’s iconic, animated Toy Story franchise is cleverly billed as the 1990s-era animated sci-fi film that inspired the creation of the iconic Buzz Lightyear space ranger toy. As such, it stars Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear, who tries to find a way back home to Earth after marooning his mentor and crew on a hostile planet.
The concept of lightyear-related time travel plays a major part in the film, as each of Buzz Lightyear’s four-minute missions is four years long for his friends back on the planet. As a result, Buzz misses out on major milestones of his best friend and commander Alicia’s life, culminating in an emotional gut punch of a scene voiced by Uzo Aduba.
A couple of decades later, Lightyear discovers robots have taken over the planet, and he teams up with a ragtag crew that includes his commander’s now adult granddaughter, voiced by Keke Palmer. The rest of the crew is voiced by Oscar-winner Taika Waititi (for the screenplay for Jojo Rabbit), Dale Soules (Orange is the New Black) and Pixar animator/voice actor Peter Sohn (Monsters University, Ratatouille), as the resourceful, scene-stealing Sox the robotic cat.
The animation in Lightyear is absolutely spectacular. It truly is a joy to behold and there are some really cute moments as well as clever nods to classic sci-fi franchises such as Star Wars, Alien, and Star Trek. But the story itself is very paint by numbers, with a bizarre third act which introduces a couple of lackluster villains. Lightyear is entertaining enough in its own right, but it falls a bit short of Pixar’s typically high bar of cleverness and charm, never quite reaching “to infinity and beyond.”
• Lightyear is the first Disney film to be rated NC-16 (the equivalent of R in the U.S.) in Singapore because of a two second, same sex kiss. Lightyear was also banned in several Muslim nations.
• The voice of the ship’s internal voice activated navigator (IVAN), is voiced by Mary McDonald-Lewis, who’s also the voice of OnStar’s navigation system.
• Lightyear director Angus MacLane says he cast Chris Evans as Buzz because he wanted an iconic star to give the character “a commanding presence that also is able to be funny without being goofy.”