Big question: If “Lightyear” was going to be the origins story of Buzz Lightyear, why wasn’t it done in live action?
As another cartoon, it’s a bit murky and not all that fun. In live-action, it might have popped and made the separation a bit easier. As is, it’s also curious why there never was a Sox toy in the original “Toy Story” films.
Thinking too hard? That’s what happens when you watch the film. You wonder why decisions were made and, frankly, why this isn’t more entertaining.
Thanks to the opening title card, we learn this is the film Andy (the boy from “Toy Story”) fell in love with in 1995. Presumably, the toy Buzz was an extension of that admiration.
What’s different? The “Toy Story” Buzz was a bit of a blowhard; the “Lightyear” one is more earnest.
Tim Allen voiced the first films; Chris Evans handles the duties here and there is a difference. Even though Evans’ Lightyear can be a little obsessive (he narrates everything he does), he’s not as spunky as the ‘toon one. When he gets into trouble, there’s danger.
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Assigned to co-command a mission with his friend Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), he tries a hot-shot move (shades of “Top Gun: Maverick”) and ruins the spaceship’s fuel cell, marooning the crew on a remote planet. The film then becomes a quest to make good on the mistake and deal with the fallout.
The bright spot? Buzz is given a robotic cat named Sox, who’s supposed to help him deal with anxiety.
Sox (voiced by animator Peter Sohn) brings the humor and those life-saving moves that help “Lightyear” out of more than a few plot holes.
Directed by Angus MacLane, “Lightyear” also features a pair of trainees (Taika Waititi and Dale Soules), who bicker often enough until Zurg (remember him?) shows up.
Voiced by James Brolin, Zurg is just as menacing as he was in other “Toy Story” iterations. But here, there’s a reveal that’s not as comforting as we might like. MacLane leans into time travel quite a bit and only gets those heart-tugging moments when Alisha’s name is invoked.
Sox, meanwhile, scoots through the film with great precision and always seems to have the right rejoinder. He’s worth his weight in nuts and bolts.
The film hints at more to come but, really, this “Lightyear” doesn’t beg for sequels. It’s not the great missing link or a new take on a Shakespearean classic. It’s one more button on the Lightyear spacesuit.
And, sometimes, those buttons are just for show.