The original Toy Story helped to put Pixar Animation Studios on the map, and it’s 3 sequels along with all of the money and accolades they earned helped to keep the studio in the good graces of much of the movie-going public for years afterward (though the consistently high quality and equally high box-office returns of the majority of their output certainly didn’t hurt either). It is hardly a surprise then that Pixar owner Disney would be interested in trying to further monetize their popular IP by broadening out the universe a bit more. The first such attempt to do so is by showing us the movie that got Andy to fall in love with the character of Buzz Lightyear in the first place.
We meet Buzz (here voiced by Chris Evans rather than Tim Allen), as he and his partner Alisha (Uzo Aduba) are exploring a strange new planet on a mission from Space Command which appears to be to find a new world for people in cryostasis aboard their ship. While the planet initially appears to be habitable, it turns out to contain a variety of hostile flora and fauna and so they are forced to make a hasty retreat. Unfortunately, Buzz’s hubris leads him to attempt a risky maneuver that backfires and strands them all. He decides to devote his time to finding a way to get them all back home by testing his team’s attempts to figure out the formula for hyperspace fuel while the colonists build up a civilization on their new world. Due to travelling at incredibly high speeds during testing, Buzz experiences time dilation, causing everyone to age by several years while he continues only advancing a few minutes until he finds himself decades into the future, and the colony now under attack from interstellar robots.
It’s actually a clever premise, if not entirely novel, but some of the usual Pixar magic seems to be missing here. The comedic bits are pretty funny, especially when he joins up with his new crew in the future, made up of Alisha’s granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer), elderly ex-con Darby (Dale Soules), perpetually nervous Mo (Taika Waititi), and robot cat SOX (Peter Sohn), but the attempts at pathos don’t work quite as well as in the studio’s previous movies. The overarching messaging around learning to work with others and appreciating the time you have are good lessons, though not really all that deep or new. Pixar has certainly done more within a science fiction framework before, but this is by no means a bad movie, and will certainly keep children, and most adults, happily occupied for 90 minutes or so. ★★★
RATED PG FOR ACTION / PERIL.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor