Director: Angus MacLane
Writers: Jason Headley, Angus MacLane, , and Matthew Aldrich
Starring: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, James Brolin, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Efren Ramirez, and Isiah Whitlock Jr
Review: “In 1995, a boy named Andy got a toy based off of his favorite movie. This is that movie.” Not only has that been the crux of the advertising campaign for Lightyear, it’s literally the first thing you see on screen as you sit down to watch it. Disney/Pixar wants you to know with 100% certainty that this is not a reboot and/or remake of anything you’ve seen thus far. It’s a movie that exists within that universe. So, if you’re going into it with negative pre-conceived notions based on your love of Toy Story, leave those at the door. Imagine you are watching a movie that Andy has told you repeatedly is his favorite and I guarantee you’ll have a good time.
Because here’s the thing. Andy’s got good taste. This is a really fun science fiction movie. It’s got a terrific original story that sometimes feels like Star Wars or Star Trek, but just as often goes into Interstellar or 2001 territory. And, it’s not afraid to get philosophical, often contemplating what’s the point of rescuing someone when they’re happy with the mistakes that have been made and what it means to be a hero. But, Lightyear also features really cool, fun, and visually interesting science-fiction battles that would definitely place it among a child’s favorite flicks. It’s beautifully animated too, especially the scenes where Buzz is flying solo through space. A couple of those scenes would make Kubrick drool.
And, of course, it’s got a killer cast of characters. Throughout the movie, I grew attached to each and every one of them. We get pretty much an entire backstory for the Hawthorne family that made my heart swoon. I cannot believe people would shun this movie over this character arc. The whole family was delightful and I’d almost be down for a movie just about them. Then, there’s Mo and Darby, who could’ve easily just been comic relief but brought a ton of heart. Of course, there’s Sox, who I expect to see a lot of merchandise for in the future. After all, he’s an adorable robot cat with a bit of an anxiety disorder. That’s practically pandering to us Disney adults. Then, of course, there’s the star of the show: Buzz Lightyear. And, as a Toy Story fan for my entire life I don’t say this lightly, this is the most I’ve ever liked Buzz Lightyear. This version of him is so likable and charming, it’s no wonder a toy based on this character would be Andy’s favorite. I absolutely adored getting to know the “real Buzz Lightyear.” Because though in may ways this is our first time meeting this character, he also feels intimately familiar. There are so many little personality quirks, actions, and sayings that are reminiscent of our one of our favorite toy buddies. It feels kind of like visiting a friend’s dad and really getting to know how they became the person they did. It’s fascinating and I loved getting to know a character we’ve known for thirty years that much better.
So, it’s obvious that I can see why this would’ve been Andy’s favorite movie growing up. But, unfortunately, it does have to be judged by our standards too. And, for Pixar, that’s an awfully high bar to surpass. Basically, what I’m saying is “does this meet the Pixar standard?” and that’s always a tough question to answer. I know a lot of people are claiming that this doesn’t live up to the Toy Story name and I definitely agree. Those are four fantastic movies with 1 and 3 being two of my favorites of all-time. And, of course, Pixar has produced other animated classics that are classics in their own right. This does not even belong in the same conversation. Because, other than one sequence reminiscent of Up, it lacks a lot of the raw emotion this studio is known to wring out of you. But, do I think every movie should be held to those standards? Absolutely not. And, like I said, this is a fantastic science fiction movie. I think it holds up on its own. If it were any other studio, people would be head over heels praising it. So, does it live up to the Pixar standards? Probably not. Is it still a fantastic piece of sci-fi adventure movie-making? Absolutely.
There also is one “twist” that I can’t really get into that kinda, sorta rubbed me the wrong way. Of course, I can’t say that it ruined anything for me because we’ve only seen the franchise from the outside, looking in. But, it does change the way you look at certain characters and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m also not sure the twist entirely made sense in the scope of the story, but I also could just be dumb and too blindsided to really understand the logic. It’s something I’ll have to judge more fairly on a rewatch. Either way, not a huge blow, but it did affect my feelings towards this movie negatively so I thought it was worth bringing up.
But, overall, I really enjoyed Lightyear. I think it served its purpose quite nicely. It’s a fun, original, science fiction movie that feels like it would compel a child to base his whole personality around it for a few years. Plus, it served as a really interesting deep-dive into the origins of one of my favorite Disney characters, ultimately making me feel more connected to him than ever. I’d say that’s a pretty big win. Now, do a Woody’s Roundup movie next, please.
TL;DR: Lightyear was Andy’s favorite movie growing up and the kid has good taste, because this movie is a fun, original, and visually pleasing science-fiction adventure flick that enriches the Toy Story universe in ways I wasn’t expecting.
Score: 7.5/10 (Really Good)