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Review: ‘Toy Story’ spinoff ‘Lightyear’ is out-of-this-world fun

From the computer animation studio behind the “Toy Story” franchise comes a spinoff or origin story for the square-jawed astronaut Buzz Lightyear, now voiced by Chris Evans. “Lightyear” by Pixar delves into the backstory for the toy/action figure and best buddy of Woody the sheriff.

"Lightyear" movie poster
"Lightyear" is a "Toy Story" spinoff and an origin story for the toy or action figure Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear. The new release from Pixar features the voice of Chris Evans as the titular character and the motion picture is playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and the Sunset Cinema in Jenkins.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — “To infinity and beyond!”

Most people won’t travel that far as the famous catchphrase of Buzz Lightyear, the handsomely-chiseled toy or action figure from Pixar’s “Toy Story” film franchise.

But it’s a sure bet that many who grew up on the computer-animated family-friendly series about toys that come to life will be headed to the movie theaters to see the new release “Lightyear.”

“Toy Story” came out in 1995 and featured the voices of Tom Hanks as frenemy Woody the sheriff; Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head; Jim Varney as Slinky the dog; Wallace Shawn as Rex the dinosaur; John Ratzenberger as Hamm, a piggy bank, and Annie Potts as Bo Peep.

Buzz Lightyear
Buzz Lightyear the toy
Contributd / Stuart Timms via Unsplash.com

Many children have now grown up with the beloved motion pictures that have become children’s classics since the release of “Toy Story” almost three decades ago. Particularly memorable are best buddies Woody and Buzz, voiced in the “Toy Story” franchise by comedian Tim Allen.

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Pixar decided to mine the current wave of nostalgia of those children-turned-adults that saw the recent theatrical releases of “Jurassic World: Dominion,” “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” just to name a few sequels, and came out with “Lightyear.”

“Lightyear” is decidedly unlike the other Pixar feature films, which are distributed by the studio’s parent company Walt Disney. The “Toy Story” spinoff is an origin story and delves deeper into the backstory of the character of Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger in “Lightyear” the movie.

The title character finds himself marooned on a hostile planet with his fellow astronauts after making a mistake that haunts him for most of his life. Rather than exploring the galaxy and romping around the universe, they attempt to forge new lives for themselves in a new world.

Chris Evans, aka Captain Steve Rogers aka Captain America from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, provides the voice for Lightyear instead of Allen, making the character more of a straight shooter rather than a comedic foil, like Allen’s performances in four “Toy Story” films.

Buzz Lightyear the action figure
Buzz Lightyear the action figure
Contributed / Veit Hammer via Unsplash.com

The marooned Lightyear is not alone, however, and soon finds himself battling robots commanded by the evil Zurg, his arch-nemesis in the line of Buzz Lightyear toys.

Izzy Hawthorne, played by Keke Palmer, teams up with Lightyear and her ragtag group of inexperienced colony defenders are humorously instructed by the space ranger to stay alive.

Hawthorne is the adult granddaughter of Lightyear’s dear friend Alisha Hawthorne, who has been with Lightyear from the very start of their disastrous exploration of the new planet.

Frank Lee
Frank Lee

For those moviegoers who are a bit trepidatious about seeing “Lightyear” because of its straightforward plot or for those of us who are a little cynical and believe the new release represents a blatant cash grab by Disney, rest assured some of the Pixar magic remains.

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Some scenes in “Lightyear” will leave viewers choked up or shedding a tear or more as the motion picture wrestles with themes like loss, regret, aging and more but with a deft touch.

Sox the robotic cat, thankfully, provides much of the comedic relief in the PG-rated movie that runs almost 90 minutes long and Lightyear’s companion steals almost every scene he is in.

“Buzz, that was utterly terrifying and I regret having joined you,” Sox tells Lightyear during one of their adventures or escapades, while clinging to the space ranger-turned-test pilot’s leg.

MORE MOVIE COLUMNS BY FRANK LEE:
The king of rock ‘n’ roll Elvis Presley makes a splashy, stylish return to the big screen in the self-titled drama “Elvis.” The Baz Luhrmann-directed film costars an obese and Svengali-like promoter played by Tom Hanks who swindles and works E.P., played by Austin Butler, to death.

The animation is wondrous to behold and one would expect no less from Pixar, which recently released its other offerings like “Luca,” “Soul” and “Turning Red” exclusively on the streaming service Disney+. “Lightyear” builds a world that is believable and enjoyably immersive.

“Lightyear” currently holds a 76% approval rating among critics and an 86% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The consensus from the critics at RottenTomatoes.com: “‘Lightyear’ settles for being a rather conventional origin story instead of reaching for the stars, but this gorgeously animated adventure ably accomplishes its mission of straightforward fun.”

“Lightyear” is playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and the Sunset Cinema in Jenkins.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum .

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I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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