Buzz Lightyear……To Infinity and BEYOND. As I sat down to write this review it dawned on me how famous this character is. We are used to thinking about live-action heroes and them being bigger than life, but these characters are too.
In 1995, Pixar Animation released Toy Story. I would have been seven. I do not remember if I saw the movie in theaters, but I do remember watching it as a kid and of course the sequels. The last sequel was Toy Story 4 and I thought it was wonderful. The nice thing about the Toy Story films is…of course they are for children, but the adult humor is there as well. Also, it felt like growing up with the character Andy that resonated more with me.
If you’ve watched any of the other films, you’ll know they have motifs ranging from love, life choices, loss, pain, and new friends…. the list can go on and on. The two main characters were Woody and Buzz played by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. There was a bit of criticism before this film came out because the voice of Buzz (Tim Allen) was replaced with Chris Evans (Captain America) I was disappointed as well…. until…. I realized they are two different characters.
The Tim Allen version is the TOY, and the Chris Evans version is apparently the real-life Buzz Lightyear. Think of a real-life person…Neal Armstrong for instance and if Mattel or another company made an action figure of him then you have the two versions. It’s also a talking toy so…moving on. The last animation film we watched was Sing 2 and I loved it. Would I feel the same about Lightyear?
Onto the film.
We open with a black screen explaining in 1995 (when Toy Story came out) that Andy (he owned Buzz and Woody) had a favorite movie which led him to get his favorite toy. This is what that movie is. I immediately was confused. I thought going in that this film was about the origins of the real-life Buzz Lightyear, however, it seems that this was actually a film Andy watched growing up. His favorite movie.
This is a minor note in the film, but it immediately felt that there wasn’t as much weight to what we were about to see. I also kept questioning throughout HOW could this be a kid’s favorite movie. Regardless, we meet our hero Buzz Lightyear (Evans). He is a Galactic Ranger in Star Command. He is the leader of the group and is with his best friend Alisha Hawthorne (Aduba) and meets them as they are exploring a foreign planet. This is a nice way for the audience to see the characters in action and get excited for the story to come.
There is action and humor immediately and the visuals look absolutely fantastic. Pixar and Disney did a great job! Give those animators a raise! We see a harrowing escape (of course) and we then see the deeper message this story will tell/teach us. Buzz Lightyear (Evans) is selfish. His ego is too the moon (pun intended) and he might have friends but never asks for help. This is also his downfall. As the team attempts to leave this planet, he fails, and they crash.
We then see a montage of the crew being woken up and a city is constructed. This is the first montage of many. We then learn that if Buzz (Evans) can jump to hyperspace he can get everyone home. As Buzz (Evans) attempts this test run, we get a small “goodbye” from him and Alisha (Aduba) and off he goes.
The visuals again look great and after an awkward return Buzz is back…yet four years have passed. This happens over and over and over. Each time Lightyear (Evans) ages minutes and everyone else ages four years. You see where this is going. Eventually, Alisha (Aduba) gifts Buzz (Evans) a robotic cat named Socks. Socks (Sohn) steals the movie. I laughed numerous times at his one-liners and when forced into action. The relationship between Buzz and Socks is the best part of this film.
I won’t give any more of the plot besides eventually Buzz (Evans) teams up with a crew, which you’ll see their names in the cast list above. The story is good, the villain is ok (Zurg from Toy Story) and there are twists and turns. There was more emotion than other films when looking at the time that passes but the issue for me is it feels so rushed. You met a character, Buzz attempts to get to hyperspeed, and four years passed. He meets a new crew and they are thrust into action. We don’t have time as an audience to love these characters. Even Zurg (Brolin) is essentially just a walking menace until the end of the film, by then you don’t care.
The visuals are outstanding, and I may see this again in IMAX 3D. However, the storyline is weak and plays it safe. The voice-acting is also great, but it feels rushed and forced. I love the Toy Story series and this being the first spin-off I wanted it to be amazing. Alas, it was too much too quickly and before you know it the story is over. This might have been the character Andy’s favorite movie, but it is definitely not mine. If you like the series and Pixar, you’ll have fun you just won’t be taken to infinity…or beyond. 3 stars out of 5