Toy Story will always hold a huge place in my heart. I love the original film, and the sequels (even the fourth film) were quirky, endearing, sweet, and timeless. Lightyear, the newest Toy Story-world outing, works hard to hit that high peak, but just can’t seem to make it into orbit.
This film has two definite halves, and the second half is more successful than the first. This is supposed to be, as the info card at the beginning tells you, the origin story movie that Andy watched, which caused him to want a Buzz Lightyear toy for his birthday. If I were a young child, or putting myself in my sons’ places when they were 7 or 8, I doubt I’d be so excited by this Buzz that I’d want the toy for my gift. The first half of the film is a Star Trek episode – mission goes wrong due to weird things found on an unknown planet (at least the rookie didn’t die), and scientific survey crew in stasis are stranded. Other than trying to save himself and his small crew – his friend and commander, Alisha, and said rookie – we don’t see almost any scenes of Buzz actually being a heroic Space Ranger.
The rest of the first half has Buzz trying to get the crew off this alien planet where they’ve been marooned. Every time he takes a test flight, he is gone for only four minutes, but much more time has passed on the planet. So the crew, including Alisha, grow, have lives, move on. This makes for fairly maudlin, sentimental scenes – not that the original Toy Story didn’t have a lot of sentiment (omg, especially TS2, with Sarah McLachlan singing Jessie’s song….), but this was a LOT.
The brightest spot here was the robot cat Alisha leaves for Buzz as a companion – Sox is cute!! Here’s your merch. With his rotating head, his “beep boop beep boop,” and actual feline-like habits, Disney is smart to get mini-animatronic Sox toys out!
The second half was more successful – with decades passed on the planet, but only days for Buzz, he returns from another test flight to find that the planet, and his friends, are again in peril from mysterious invaders. I’ll try not to spoil too much, but let’s just say – I was not happy with the Emperor Zurg reveal. Unfortunately, this was weak, underdeveloped, and didn’t make a huge amount of sense. (Wasn’t there a line in one of the original TS films where Zurg says, “I am your father”?) The 3-person crew that is helping Buzz defeat the invaders – with Buzz’s reluctant agreement – was a lot of fun, if, again, underdeveloped. His old friend Alisha’s granddaughter Izzy is among them, and it also includes a clumsy young man, Mo, voiced by Taika Waititi; and a prisoner, Diaz, trying to shave time off his sentence. Diaz, in particular, could have been used a LOT more – Izzy tells Buzz that Diaz can take any three things and make them explode. So – let’s see him MacGyvering stuff! There were plenty of opportunities. And who doesn’t like a good shoelace/tin can/mystery meat explosion??
Two big controversies have come out with this film. The first is that the only real romantic couple shown is Buzz’s friend Alisha and her wife. There is one gentle kiss – and we get all of the “OMG, why is Disney pushing their gay agenda?” It’s not a big issue, and if you think of how many films Disney’s made – with single-parent families, traditional male/female parents – why NOT have one small, non-center character be gay? I promise, kids are never going to really notice. But it’s set off the warning klaxons of America, and caused the film to be banned in several homophobic countries.
And – Tim Allen does not do the voice of Buzz here. Allen, nearly 70, definitely sounds older (although he looks good), as people tend to do, and this character is young and active. Plus, Allen has played the voice of the TOY, and this is supposed to be (ok, ahem) the real person that inspired the toy. Chris Evans does a great job, and sounds so close to a young Tim Allen that if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t figure it out. Evans says that he to remember to lower his voice for every line. I love the idea of taking another superhero icon to play the space hero! Critics of this move say “he was fired because he’s conservative” – then explain his contract to continue playing Santa Clause in that successful franchise, soon to be a Disney+ series??? (and just for historical accuracy, there was a series made by Disney in 2000 with Patrick Warburton voicing Buzz Lightyear…)
The Pixar animation was, as usual, amazing. Pixar films always blow me away with their technical skills!
So, my final word on Lightyear – fun to see once, not a classic Disney film. And I really wanted it to be. Have you seen the movie? Let me know your thoughts below!
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