PG Score: 6.75/10
Lightyear opened in theaters on 6/17/22
Lightyear marks Angus MacLane's (Co-Director of Finding Dory) solo directing and co-writing debuts for a feature film. Disney and Pixar’s newest animated project hits some turbulence, but the journey provides enough laughter, drama, action, and appealing visuals to partially correct its course.
The origin story doubles as a Toy Story spin-off but it is not a prequel, as it takes place outside of the franchise's four movies. The plot follows Buzz Lightyear and a team of quirky adventurers as they set out on an intergalactic mission of epic proportions.
The attention-grabbing animation reflects the level of quality the illustrious studio has built its name on for decades. The extraterrestrial environments are especially impressive and showcase the thrill of deep-space exploration. Character designs hold up well enough and highlight the diverse band of heroes. Combat is fast and satisfying, and the aerial portions really deliver. The action sequences are the best indicators of the enormous behind-the-scenes effort that went into the movie. Lightyear may not reach the heights of top-tier Pixar powerhouses, but it is often a feast for the eyes.
The comedic bits are hit and miss, but there are at least a few humorous interactions that are bound to connect with the target audience. On the other end of the equation, there are several dramatic instances that strike an affecting chord in subtle fashion. The movie has a surprisingly serious feel to it, so the moments of comic relief are welcomed. Offscreen developments have added drama of their own. Despite severe backlash including 14 countries banning the film, Disney made a bold and benevolent move by portraying the company’s first same-gender kiss. While it would have been better to not pull it in the first place, the decision to reinstate the romantic exchange is nonetheless an encouraging step for LGBTQ representation in cinema.
The 100-minute runtime moves at the speed of light, which comes at a cost. Lightyear is ravaged by narrative issues that make for a disjointed viewing. The fact that it is primarily aimed at children should not mean the story is free to abandon all logic and rules established within its orbit. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happens as the plot stops making sense at a certain point. The careless writing in this area detracts from the entire experience.
Chris Evans' stellar voice work launches the titular character in an unexpected yet refreshing trajectory. Because this is a younger version of Buzz, the Captain America star puts a different spin on the central figure. He is accompanied by the vocal talents of Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, and James Brolin. Sohn is the highlight as Buzz’s robotic feline companion, Sox. He is responsible for the funniest parts of the film and brings joy to the friendly automated entity.
Not Quite a Pixar Masterpiece
Lightyear is worlds away from Pixar’s best work and the storyline contains indisputable flaws. However, Angus MacLane’s handling of the cosmic excitement coupled with Chris Evans’ deft piloting as the revered protagonist make this liftoff worth witnessing at the theater.
PG Score: 6.75/10