Buzz and his future crew. Image: Pixar
After a dynamite first act, though, Lightyear’s second act is not as strong. As Buzz is forced to work with Izzy and her crew, solving the multiple problems that come with a killer robot hellbent on destruction, the plot takes over and Buzz gets pushed a bit to the background. Eventually, the development of the other characters and the escalation of the stakes in this act pay off big, but in the moment, they slow the film down just enough that it’s noticeable.
Thankfully, Lightyear takes a giant leap in the third act with some huge revelations and crazy set-pieces. Plus, throughout all of it is Buzz’s robot cat, Sox, who completely steals the show. Voiced by Peter Sohn (Doug from Up), Sox is hilarious, adorable, and resourceful. He’s an incredibly useful character that instantly endears himself to the audience. Over the course of the film, that adoration just grows and grows as he becomes more and more important to the plot, to the characters, and to us. He takes Lightyear up another notch.
Fans of Toy Story will notice a lot of subtle winks back to that movie, via some of the ships, props, and shot compositions, and sci-fi fans will find even more to love. On first viewing I picked up on nods to Aliens, The Empire Strikes Back, 2001Nintendo, Star Trek, and others — none of which are crucial to the plot or excessive, but are more examples of Pixar making a movie that works on multiple levels. There’s the core blockbuster, sci-fi adventure. Plenty of nerdy little Easter eggs. And lots of important worthwhile messages along the way too. Themes about embracing life, dealing with loss, and the importance of family are among the most prevalent. Basically, it’s the type of movie that will reward multiple viewings.
Lightyear isn’t quite as good as any of the Toy Story movies it’s based on, but it doesn’t have to be. It stands on its own, delivering the type of thrills and visuals Pixar probably never thought possible. Ultimately, it does exactly what it set out to do: show us a movie that a young kid, maybe even yours, will one day call their favorite.
Lightyear opens Friday, June 17th.
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