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Film, TV and Streaming

‘Lightyear’ is Disney’s latest attempt to squeeze merchandise sales from ‘Toy Story’ collection

Chris Evans and Peter Sohn voice Buzz and Sox in “Lightyear.” (Courtesy of IMDB)
Film was released to theaters in June and became available on Disney + Aug. 3

Disney/Pixar’s newest entry to the “Toy Story” collection, “Lightyear,” takes on a tall order. The film is supposed to be Andy’s favorite movie, the movie that inspired Buzz Lightyear toys back in the 1995 “Toy Story” universe. This premise allows for Disney/Pixar to create a minimally invasive spin-off. However, by making a new Buzz-centered movie and calling it Andy’s favorite means filmmakers have to appeal not only to children obsessed with Buzz but also adults who were around Andy’s age in 1995.

Disney/Pixar is fully capable of this, as it has produced countless children’s films that are in touch with the heart and humor of adults. But “Lightyear” does not live up to the standard.

In the first act of “Lightyear,” Buzz maroons a team of space rangers on an uninhabitable planet when he crashes a ship and loses the fuel required for light-speed space travel. A montage ensues as Buzz vows to fix his mistake by testing different variations of the necessary fuel. The catch is that while each test flight only feels like four minutes to Buzz, four years pass by back at base.

Buzz watches his best friends get married, have babies, grow old and die over what seems like days. “Lightyear” copies “Interstellar” in this way, but is far less interested in breaking the hearts of its audience. The sequence is rushed, low-stakes and fails to give Buzz any real character development.

In the second act of the film, Buzz teams with a cast of rookies to destroy a familiar villain, Zurg. The best character on the team is by far Sox, a robot cat that was commissioned to Buzz at the beginning of the film. Sox is funny on his own, but most importantly for the film gives Buzz a companion to help round his character. Without Sox, Buzz’s scenes would be dreadfully boring, as Buzz is one of the most basic characters Disney/Pixar has created in recent years.

Zurg, Buzz’s classic nemesis and the main villain of “Lightyear” only appears during the last act of the film. To speak vaguely as to avoid spoilers, Zurg’s mere existence is extremely confusing. His motivation is lackluster and his actions are inconsistent with his character and the rising action between Buzz and Zurg is plagued with plot holes.

“Lightyear’s” animation is on par with the quality Pixar has produced over the last decade, but viewers looking for a beautifully animated “Toy Story” film should just watch the fourth.

“Lightyear” feels like Disney’s last attempt to squeeze merchandise sales out of the “Toy Story” franchise. Fortunately, because “Lightyear” is non-invasive to canon “Toy Story,” its failures don’t taint the beloved films.