It’s hard to believe that it has been since before the pandemic when a PIXAR film has played on the big screens – with Disney opting to move “Soul,” “Luca” and “Turning Red” to its streaming service Disney+.
PIXAR finally returns to the theaters in grand fashion with “Lightyear.” The spinoff from the “Toy Story” franchise is an absolute blast – a highly entertaining adventure that is worthy of its “Toy Story” roots and ranks right up there with the best of the best from PIXAR.
“Lightyear” begins with a title card that explains that Andy from “Toy Story” got his first Buzz Lightyear toy in 1995 because he was a character in his favorite film. The title card concludes with “This is that film” and proceeds to take us straight into the action – with Buzz (voiced by Chris Evans) stranded on a distant planet with a crew that includes longtime Space Ranger partner Izzy Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba).
Buzz is convinced he can get the stranded crew off the planet by trying to harness an energy source on the planet. However, every time he attempts the mission – flying at light speed – he jumps several years in time.
As the unsuccessful missions pile up, everyone else around Buzz lives a full life – a poignant sequence that reminded me of the previous PIXAR film “Up.”
When Buzz finally is able to complete the mission, he jumps forward 22 years and faces a new set of people he’s trying to help get home and a new enemy named Emperor Zurg, who wants the energy source for his own use.
The only people that can help Buzz are a rag-tag group of aspiring Space Rangers, led by Hawthorne’s daughter Izzy (voiced by Keke Palmer).
The film packs a lot into its 100-minute time but uses the time travel element to create moments that are both touching and fun (sometimes within the same scene).
“Lightyear” is the first animated film to be shot in the IMAX format. The result is director Angus MacLane creating one of the most exquisitely detailed experiences that needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. The detail and animation are enough to recommend the film, but the story and characters are just as endearing.
Buzz may be the star, but the scene-stealer is an AI-created support cat named Sox (voiced by Peter Sohn) who gives the film a boost every time he appears.
Everything comes together to make “Lightyear” a thrilling new chapter for the “Toy Story” franchise – and a film that sends PIXAR to new heights.
I can certainly see why this was Andy’s favorite film, because it’s one of my favorite films of 2022 to date.