Lightyear (2022)

Even though we were under the impression that Andy loved Buzz Lightyear because he was this new special toy, we’re told in 1999’s “Toy Story 2” that he was actually a part of a TV series, which was further canonized in the 2000 animated show “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.” Now we’re told that in 1995 Andy actually loved Buzz Lightyear because he originally came from a hit movie within the “Toy Story” universe. And this is that movie. That we’re watching—uh, somehow. Despite the absolutely elaborate concept behind it, “Lightyear” is a meta-movie that features pre-toy Buzz as an adventurous space ranger and bonafide hero. All the while there are some fun allusions to “Top Gun,” “Flash Gordon,” and “Aliens” to be explored here.

Legendary space ranger Buzz Lightyear embarks on an intergalactic adventure alongside ambitious recruits Izzy, Mo, Darby, and his robot companion, Sox. As this motley crew tackles their toughest mission yet, they must learn to work together as a team to escape the evil Zurg and his dutiful robot army that are never far behind. “Lightyear” is a “Frankensteining” of a sequel, prequel, and spin off with Chris Evans being the third actor to portray Buzz. Tim Allen was the original, while Patrick Warburton stood in for Allen on “Star Command.” The latter two actors have done good jobs in that their main goals are to emulate Tim Allen.

Evans, in particular, is very good as this more fleshed out, human version of the character presenting all the shades of the Buzz we saw in 1995, while also adding considerable depth. It’s a shame that “Lightyear” wasn’t welcomed by movie audiences, as despite some small throwbacks to “Toy Story,” Angus McLane’s film is a darn good time that can stand on its own two feet. I had so much fun with “Lightyear” and the way it injected a lot of depth in to Buzz’s world mixing movie serial chaos, with some classic outer space Disney adventure. Buzz is even given his own toy in the form of the robotic cat Sox, who becomes an interesting asset to Buzz and his team.

“Lightyear” manages to really aim for more of a slick lighthearted action adventure than a family comedy, which is why I think a lot of fans of the series weren’t too keen on visiting it in theaters. Director MacLane does have a good respect of Buzz’s whole origins, giving a back story and first adventure that’s so grandiose and exciting that it’s no wonder a kid like Andy jumped on board as a fan. Evans is complimented by a remarkable cast with folks like Keke Palmer delivering great turns as young, eager to prove herself cadet, Izzy Hawthorne. All the while the biggest laughs come from Taika Waititi and Chantel Ladeszou, both of whom are aspiring cadets that have a long way to go before they can take on a mission.

Waititi in particular delivers his lines brilliantly and takes what could have been a bland supporting cast and gives them some serious life. While “Lightyear” does lose steam in the final ten minutes, MacLane is bold enough to offer the “Toy Story” fan base a movie that can click in to “Toy Story” but can also pretty much be appreciated on its own terms. Had it been given a decent chance, I would have loved a sequel with Buzz and his team.

Alas, it wasn’t in the cards.