As a kid I always loved Toy Story, and my fascination has continued and evolved over the years. The Toy Story franchise has consistently delivered astounding entertainment that is family friendly and brilliant. Lightyear is no exception.
The timeline between the original four Toy Story films was appropriate, and they had the right transitions and continuity of the storyline. The franchise also seemed to follow my childhood—and beyond. I was born in 1993 and Toy Story opened in 1995; Toy Story 2 opened in 1999 when I was entering school; Toy Story 3 opened in 2010 when I was in high school; and Toy Story 4opened in 2019, as I entered full adulthood and my movie reviewer career was taking off. Lightyear is a new beginning for the franchise, and it totally wowed me.
Lightyear almost feels like a virtual reality video game taken to new heights. The space setting in the animated format, especially when seen in a large format like IMAX or Dolby Digital, is brisk and clear with amazing direction and animation. I felt like I was in a whole new world of Disney fun, like I was actually in space and part of the new story. And the Buzz Lightyear suit, the dialogue, the fun catch phrases, and the creative nostalgia are all still there.
For the first time Tim Allen is not playing the voice of Buzz. This is of course a big change, since Allen delivered Disney fun that will always be cherished. Chris Evans is now the voice of Buzz Lightyear. Evans also has a great voice for the character, and he continues the classic Toy Storycharacterization of Buzz on his quest to go “to infinity and beyond.”
The setup of the film is that Buzz’s space ranger days have seen some errors and mishaps, and Buzz goes into space with the goal to save the planet from the many evils around it. Those evils including, of course, Emperor Zurg, whose voice is played by James Brolin. This time though, Buzz has a sidekick—an electronic cat named Sox, whose voice is played by Peter Sohn. Their relationship is similar to the relationship between Buzz and Woody, which is one of the reasons that Lightyear still has the Toy Story brilliance and the positive vibe.
Some may argue that the film doesn’t feel the same without Andy, Sid, or some of the other earlier characters. But the story going forward with Lightyear is still pure Disney adrenaline and, after all, Buzz is now in his true environment. The film almost seems at times like Toy Story meets Gravity (2013), but with animated characters, and it sets the perfect foundation for Disney to bring us new adventures and to evolve the Toy Storyfranchise. Though it’s early, Lightyear is one of the best films I have seen this summer. Four stars for Lightyear.