Friday, June 17, 2022

Review: "LIGHTYEAR" Works Hard, But the Robot Cat Steals the Show

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 37 of 2022 (No. 1849) by Leroy Douresseaux

Lightyear (2022)
Running time:  100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA –  PG for action/peril
DIRECTOR:  Angus MacLane
WRITERS:  Angus MacLane and Jason Headley; from a story by Angus MacLane, Matthew Aldrich, and Jason Headley
PRODUCER:  Galyn Susman
CINEMATOGRAPHERS:  Jeremy Lasky (D.o.P.) and Ian Megibben (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Anthony J. Greenberg
COMPOSER: Michael Giacchino


Starring:  (voices) Chris Evans, Peter Sohn, Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Angus MacLane, Bill Hader, Efren Ramirez, Keira Hairston, and James Brolin

Lightyear is a 2022 computer-animated, science fiction, action-adventure film directed by Angus MacLane, produced by Pixar Animation Studios, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.  The film is based on the character and story surrounding the character, Buzz Lightyear, that first appeared in the 1995 film, Toy Story.  Lightyear focuses on a marooned space ranger who takes on an army of robots with only an inexperienced group of recruits to help him.

In 1995, a young Andy Davis (of Toy Story) saw the film that inspired the “Buzz Lightyear” toy line that he loves so much.  Lightyear is that film.

Lightyear introduces Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans), a “Space Ranger” in Star Command and the pilot of “the Turnip,” a space exploration vessel.  Buzz and his commanding officer, Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), are exploring the habitable planet, Tikana Prime, when a series of accidents occur.  Now, the Turnip is stranded on Tikana, marooning the entire crew.

Lightyear spends the next several decades experimenting with hyperspace crystalline fuel in a bid to get the marooned crew off the planet.  Eventually, he is mostly a forgotten outcast, with only SOX (Peter Sohn), his robotic cat his only companion.  Buzz meets another group of misfits:  Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer), Alisha's granddaughter; Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi), a clumsy recruit in the colonial defense forces; and Darby Steel (Dale Soules), an elderly paroled convict conscripted into the defense forces.  Together, they will take on a ruthless army of robots and their mysterious leader, Emperor Zurg (James Brolin), who has a shocking connection to Buzz Lightyear.

Lightyear is the first Pixar Animation Studios film to receive a wide theatrical release in North America in over two years, the last being 2020's Oscar-nominated Onward.  In that time, among the Pixar films that Disney released on its streaming service, Disney+, is one almost perfect Pixar film, Soul (2020), and one perfect film, Luca (2021).

Lightyear is a good, but not great Pixar film.  Yes, it follows the formula of Pixar films of having likable and lovable characters with engaging story arcs.  The characters have to overcome flaws, such as Buzz's insistence that he go-it-alone; Izzy's determination to be just like her grandmother; and Mo's clumsiness that is always endangering the mission and his compatriots.  Like many Pixar films, Lightyear has a last act filled with peril and near-disaster, if not near-death.  That is the problem with Lightyear, however; it is simply too formulaic.

Lightyear is not a particularly imaginative science fiction film.  Tikana Prime's aggressive plant vines and killer bugs are generic elements that can be found in American comic books, Japanese manga, sci-fi cartoons, etc.  Lightyear does have one great character, the robotic cat, Sox, who is in the great tradition of both Walt Disney and Pixar's memorable and lovable animal and animal-like sidekicks.  Sox is the reason that Lightyear does not fall into mediocrity.  Also, Peter Sohn, the actor who voices Sox, sounds like actor Jason Bateman (which is a good thing), at least, to me.

After seeing it, I realize that Lightyear is the kind of animated film that I usually wait to watch via the home media release instead of going to a movie theater to see it.  But Sox makes the trip to the theater worth it, and he is the reason for the grade I am giving the film.  While the last act is a nice reward for watching the entire film, Lightyear is not a Disney “instant classic,” and that's all there is to it.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

[This film has three post-credit scenes.]

Friday, June 17, 2022

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