This Buzz movie doesn’t fly, but it falls with style.
There would be no doubt a solo feature of the ever popular “Toy Story” space ranger Buzz Lightyear would be green lit by Disney and Pixar. In a recent trend, Joaquin Phoenix gave the best performance of 2019 as the Clown Prince of Crime in “Joker,” and Ewan McGregor is reprising his Obi-Wan Kenobi role on the Disney+ series. So, it’s apparent that solo films or spin-offs are more popular now than in the past.
Having grown up on the original animated movies, which I think are part of the greatest animated franchise of all time, Tim Allen will always be the best voice actor to play Buzz, because of how he balances his comedy tones and has the courage to keep going. But instead of him reprising his role in “Lightyear,” Chris Evans would play the younger version in the movie, which jokingly explains that it’s his owner Andy’s favorite movie.
It doesn’t have the full-throttle story-telling that the “Toy Story” franchise provided, but it does have its moments and animation that earn the name “Lightyear.” It’s a Sci-Fi spin-off obviously made for fans of the space ranger, young and old, while using influences from some of the best movies of the genre.
For instance, the movie starts off with an “Interstellar” echo and continues with a “Star Wars” edge, as Buzz crash lands a voyage ship on a planet. He and the crew have been trying to open a worm hole to find their way home. He gives keeps giving the mission test runs, but while he stays the same age, everyone ages quickly as technology advances and decisions must be made to shut down the mission to get home.
We see Buzz thinking he doesn’t need a team, especially since he’s stuck with a virtual assistant by the name of I.V.A.N. (voiced by Mary McDonald-Lewis) and a robotic cat named SOX (voiced by Peter Sohn). And his best friend is his lesbian fellow pilot Alisha Hawthrone (voiced by Uzo Aduba), who is getting older and wiser than Buzz.
He’s this close to saving everyone, but time causes the program to get shut down under the new orders of Commander Burnside (voiced by Isiah Whitlock, Jr.). So, he breaks the rules, jumps in that wormhole, and ends up 20-years in the future, where that same planet is now under seize by his future enemy Emperor Zurg (voiced by James Brolin), and the only people who are outside of his realm are a team of misfits. They consist of the criminal Darby Steel (voiced by Dale Soules), the cowardly quitter Mo Morrison (voiced by Taika Waititi), and the Alisha’s spunky granddaugther Izzy Hawthorne (voiced by Keke Palmer).
Parts of the story are interesting, while the other parts seem tedious, and we can pretty much guess the message the minute we meet this Buzz. So, the story doesn’t rank with how Buzz learned he was a toy or when he had to deal with a copy or when he spoke Spanish or when he said goodbye to Woody.
But what it does accomplish is the look and feel of the animation for both the characters and environments. The “Star Wars” and “Interstellar” echos give them some nostalgia and heart, there are sincere moments, and the voice actors are talented in the ways they transcend through various genres.
As I’ve mentioned, Tim Allen will always be Buzz Lightyear, but Chris Evans is runners up in the ways he tries to imitate him without being so self-congratulatory about it. Among the supporting cast, Brolin reminded me of Kurt Russell in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” with his attitude, Palmer is a voice acting natural, and Sohn delivers some laughs as SOX. In fact, SOX is the funniest character in the movie with how he acts like a robot companion and, on the side, a generic feline.
“Lightyear” doesn’t go beyond its infinity in terms of its story, but it’s sure to entertain fans of all ages with how it falls with style. And plus, it’s the first Pixar film to hit theaters since “Onward.”