From infinity to be-yawned! Buzz Lightyear spin-off is bereft of Toy Story’s dazzling wit and charm, writes BRIAN VINER in his two-star review
For those of us who adore the animated Toy Story films, expectations for Pixar’s new spin-off stretched comfortably to infinity and beyond. Maybe even further.
But my hopes were sent crashing to Earth within the first 15 minutes or so of yesterday’s advance screening and by the time the end credits rolled, I found myself reaching for a word never before used in conjunction with a Pixar movie, at least not by me.
The film is set on a hostile planet millions of light years from Earth. Buzz (voiced by American actor Chris Evans) and his crew are forced to crash land there
I found Lightyear to be, yes, boring. In fairness, plenty of others disagreed. And there is still every likelihood that the celebrated battle-cry, ‘To infinity and beyond’, first popularised by space ranger Buzz Lightyear in the original Toy Story (1995), will indeed reflect the hopes of the accountants at Pixar’s parent company Disney.
The film is projected to make a fortune at the box office. Yet from where I was sitting, Lightyear was largely bereft of the captivating wit and irresistible charm that enriches all four Toy Story pictures.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t kissed with technical genius – some of the animation is spectacular.
But lifting Buzz out of his usual environment and depicting him as an actual astronaut in a wacky tale of travel through space and time somehow diminishes his strength as a character.
Moreover, depriving him of his cherished companions from the toy box – the likes of Woody the cowboy and Mr Potato Head – means that he must effectively carry this movie on his own.
Regrettably, not even his famously broad shoulders are quite up to it. Lightyear is billed as an ‘origin story’ and in a sense it is, because we are told at the beginning that this is the movie that made Buzz such a hero to young Andy, the owner of the iconic toys, all those years ago.
It is set on a hostile planet millions of, you’ve guessed, light years from Earth. Buzz (voiced by American actor Chris Evans) and his crew are forced to crash land there, and because Buzz considers it his own fault, he also assumes responsibility for getting them off.
‘To infinity and beyond’, first popularised by space ranger Buzz Lightyear in the original Toy Story (1995), will reflect the hopes of the accountants at Pixar’s parent company Disney. The film is projected to make a fortune at the box office
He duly becomes a test pilot, attempting to achieve ‘hyperspeed’, which is the only way for them to escape. But his test flights trigger a phenomenon called ‘time dilation’.
This means that what seems like four seconds to him is in fact four years, so that by the time he gets back his commanding officer and dear friend Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) has met the love of her life and is about to get married.
The good folk at Pixar then flourish their right-on credentials by making Alisha’s spouse another female, with whom – one would assume via a sperm donor, although the animator sensibly leave that detail to the imagination – she later becomes a co-mother.
This LBGTQ dimension has reportedly got the film banned from the UAE and other Muslim countries. I wish I could say it’s their loss.
With Alisha’s entire life span thus compressed, Buzz finds himself joining forces with her granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer), an aspiring space ranger hampered by ‘astrophobia’.
Also in his gang is a robotic cat called Sox (Peter Sohn), who gets most of the film’s best visual gags as Buzz and co try to outmanoeuvre the menacing Emperor Zurg (James Brolin).
As all die-hard fans will recall, Zurg first made an appearance as a Darth Vader mickey-take in Toy Story 2 (1999).
Lightyear is billed as an ‘origin story’ and in a sense it is, because we are told at the beginning that this is the movie that made Buzz such a hero to young Andy, the owner of the iconic toys, all those years ago
Director and co-writer Angus MacLane certainly tries his very best throughout to pay homage to the original film and its sequels, however I fear much of Lightyear will zoom way over the heads of the age group still, presumably, intended as the target audience.
I wouldn’t want to try explaining the plot to a nine-year-old, especially a metaphysical encounter between Buzz and his own older self.
However, that’s not my main objection. Watching all four Toy Story films, I couldn’t stop spluttering with mirth. This time, alas, the bigger challenge was to suppress the yawns.
Lightyear opens in cinema on Friday.
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