Disney/Pixar's Lightyear marks the studio's first theatrical release since Onward, a film released in theaters during the dawn of the pandemic, only to be quickly re-located to Disney Plus when theaters started closing their doors. Ever since then, each subsequent Pixar release has headed straight for the streaming service, almost signaling a vote of no confidence in the studio's offerings. But if there was one film destined to break that mold, it had to be one connected to the studio's biggest intellectual property--Toy Story. Since Toy Story sequels have been overdone at this point, the studio decided it was time to think outside of the box, while still cashing in on the popularity of one of their biggest characters, Buzz Lightyear.
Lightyear follows Buzz, a Space Ranger who will stop at nothing to complete his mission to return his people home--no matter how long it takes him. Along the way, he is aided by a robot cat named Sox and a band of scrappy misfits who he reluctantly must work with to defeat the aliens and their overlord Zurg who has invaded the planet.
From the moment this project was announced, including the repeated clarification that this is not the same character from the Toy Story movies, but rather the actual Space Ranger movie character that inspired the toy, the whole thing felt like a punchline to a joke. Especially in casting anyone aside from Tim Allen, who made the role famous, to be the voice of Buzz. While I like Chris Evans as an actor and feel that he did a serviceable job in the role, I just couldn't help but feel a weird disconnect from his character--as well as the film as a whole--the entire time that seemed so perplexing, yet intentional. Pixar wanted to have their cake and eat it too in that they wanted to try something new, yet still wanted to rely on something old. The results just don't mesh well together and it all comes off like a cheap knockoff. Toy Story 2 already gives us plenty of glimpses of what a cinematic Buzz Lightyear adventure would entail, and this feels set in an entirely different universe...one with much less creativity, originality, and most notably charm.
While Lightyear works as a perfectly fine little sci-fi adventure, the connective tissue that wants us to feel like this movie belongs in the Toy Story universe just isn't there. Instead, it's all too obvious that this is a hollow attempt at being something new, whilst still being a part of the franchise, due to a technicality. I did really enjoy the cat though. Lightyear ultimately is a middling Pixar effort and you'd be much better off revisiting one of Buzz Lightyear's (the toy) previous adventures.