Recap: Disney-Pixar’s Buzz origin story ‘Lightyear’ is worth the wait on Disney+

Buzz Lightyear’s origin story finally arrives on Disney+ on Wednesday, and it’s worth the wait to enjoy it at home — even if you didn’t really miss much at the cinema.

WTOP’s Jason Fraley reviews “Lightyear” on Disney+

Pandemic education was made easier when Soul (2020) and Encanto (2021) were released direct-to-stream, but Disney-Pixar rolled the dice to release Lightyear in theaters.

Buzz Lightyear’s origin story finally arrives on Disney+ on Wednesday, and it’s worth the wait to enjoy it at home — even if you didn’t really miss much at the cinema.

The story follows the ‘real life’ space ranger who is said to have inspired Andy’s plastic toys, and introduces us to a brave young astronaut named Buzz Lightyear who is stranded on a dangerous planet with his commander and crew. As he struggles to reach the speed of light to return home, he must face off against an army of robots commanded by the evil Emperor Zurg.

It’s not surprising that Lightyear lost to Minions: The Rise of Gru at the box office, nor does it underperform compared to the other four parts of Toy Story (1995-2019). That’s because the prequel already went up against it with two big hits, making it an unnecessarily confusing film to promote from a marketing standpoint.

First, the film isn’t about Buzz Lightyear’s beloved toy, but the “real” human who inspired him. Sure, we’ve seen toys inspire movies before, from GI Joe to Lego, but that was first toys, then cartoons. Pixar could have told the story of Buzz Aldrin, who gave Lightyear his namesake, but it was already wrapped in certain backstory elements.

Second, the hero is not voiced by Tim Allen. I love Chris Evans, but it’s like making a Woody origin story without Tom Hanks. Conservatives fear Allen has been axed for his politics, but that doesn’t sit well with Disney casting Allen in an upcoming The Santa Clause reboot. As for me, I don’t let The Toolman’s politics spoil my enjoyment of its fictional characters.

If you can somehow get past those two hurdles, “Lightyear” isn’t a bad ride. (Note that I said two hurdles: The third “controversy” is silly because if the subplot about same-sex romance bothers you, then move with the times. It’s 2022. “Lightyear” paints a tearful montage like “Up (2009), only this time featuring interracial mothers raising three generations.)

Hawthorne is a lovable character as Buzz’s best friend, voiced by Emmy-winner Uzo Adobo from Orange is the New Black, while Keke Palmer voices her future granddaughter Izzy, who suffers from space anxiety (astrophobia) and Buzz’s phrases do not can finish like her grandmother. When Buzz says, “To infinity and beyond,” Izzy stares blankly at his hand.

Perhaps the best character is robotic cat sidekick Sox (Peter Sohn), who loves to rub his tummy and earns Buzz’s trust by cracking the code for the speed of light. Buzz initially hates Autopilot technology, but slowly learns to trust computers. Similarly, Buzz is evolving to enjoy futuristic sandwiches with meat on top and bottom and bread in the middle.

This sandwich unintentionally symbolizes the film’s strengths: The first and last thirds are the tastiest, while the bread in the middle is a bit soggy. We love seeing Buzz’s origins with Hawthorne as much as we love his conclusion in circles, but Act 2 has too much action with lasers firing space robots to keep kids busy but make most parents turn their backs .

There’s even an unexpected twist with Zurg, who was mentioned as Buzz’s nemesis in the original Toy Story. It may be half-cute and I’m still not sure if it quite works from a logical narrative standpoint, but it’s nonetheless a smart choice that will make you reconsider the franchise, given that ” Lightyear” offers numerous quotations and references to the original.

My biggest gripe is that “Lightyear” doesn’t include the Little Green Men of the Claw Machine! The squeaky toys could have been real aliens! It’s a missed opportunity in Pixar’s quest to beat the adorable yellow boys in Minions. Additionally, a final scene could have featured Buzz’s fame-inspiring merchandise, from action figures to Pizza Planet restaurant franchises.

In fact, that would have been my favorite mid-credits or post-credits sequence. Instead of the two throwaways (Isiah Whitlock Jr.’s Commander Burnside, a robot on a map) it would have been better to have seen Andy or Sid at Pizza Planet maneuvering the claw machine past the Little Green Men to give themselves a Buzz Lightyear snap , his face gallantly rising to the camera.

Sigh. Maybe I’m biased towards the original Toy Story. I will never forget sitting in the theater and seeing a style I had never seen before. It was the first-ever computer-animated feature film, the most important moment in the genre since the first animated feature film, Snow White (1937).

As such, “Lightyear” will never make lists of the greatest films of all time like “Snow White” and “Toy Story” have. As much as I liked Forky in Toy Story 4, the franchise probably should have stopped after Toy Story 3 (2010) for a perfect coming-of-age trilogy.

Instead, we mine materials from theme park attractions like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at Disney World, where kids fire lasers at galactic aliens to score points and defeat the evil Emperor Zurg. If you liked that, you’ll like Lightyear, but don’t worry if you missed it at the cinema. Disney+ is just the right launchpad.

3.5 stars

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