Buzz Lightyear is back, but in not exactly in the way most fans remember the character. Most Toy Story fans know and love the character as a Space Ranger action figure who has belonged to children Andy and Bonnie. However, this is not another Toy Story movie. In the foreword of the film, it is noted that Andy acquired his beloved Buzz Lightyear toy after enjoying the movie that inspired the merchandise. Lightyear is supposed to be that movie. Though that might initially seem like a cheap ploy to milk more money out of a successful and creative franchise, one simply has to watch and enjoy the movie to see that, while there may be some truth to that impression, the filmmakers behind Disney/Pixar’s latest actually put much heart and imagination into it.

And on the very positive side, Lightyear is actually a legitmately good animated science fiction movie. Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans), his commanding officer Alisa Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), and their crew get marooned on the planet Tikana Prime, when a hostile lifeform wreaks havoc that leads to their ship being damaged without a fuel source. The entire crew do their best to make Tikana Prime their home, while they work on creating a viable fuel with their limited resources. The fuel must be able to handle interstellar travel, and after several failed attempts things begin to look bleak. Meanwhile, an robot alien invasion occurs further complicating the mission of Star Command.

Written and directed by Angus MacLane, who co-wrote the screenplay and story with Jason Headley and Matthew Aldrich, Lightyear delivers smartly written science fiction, thrilling action and adventure, in addition to some delightful humor. The screening I attended was presented on the immense IMAX screen and I feel that the gorgeous visuals look incredible in this format. While I can’t say that this spin-off movie is as good as or better than any of the Toy Story installments, it still stands well on its own as a solid piece of science-fiction filmmaking.

My only gripe, and surprisingly, it is a minor one is that I wish they had made the Buzz Lightyear character a bit more dynamic. That is not to say he isn’t likable or unworthy of any kind of empathy, but I wanted to see more shades of the Toy Story version in him. I get that the Toy Story version is a more exaggerated and cartoonish take on the character, but sometimes I feel that writers got way too serious with him.

That is not to say that Chris Evans didn’t understand the assignment. In fact, he is actually perfect for this type of character. Should Disney/Pixar make a sequel for the movie, I hope that they would want to do something more fun with the “real” Buzz. On the plus side, there is a particular character that often steals the show and that would be the character of Sox (Peter Sohn).

Sox serves as a robotic emotional support cat for Buzz. And it is Sox’s scenes that are often the more enjoyable ones in the film. Imagine if R2-D2 were a robotic talking cat, but with the manners of C-3PO. That is exactly what the character is like, and his scenes range for adorable to hilarious. Voice actor Peter Sohn absolutely kills with his performance, making Sox the most lovable character of the movie. In addition to these two great voice actors, the movie features wonderful work by Keke Palmer, James Brolin, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, Uzo Aduba, Efren Ramirez, and Isaiah Whitlock.

Lightyear opens in theaters this weekend, and is definitely worthy of its theatical release. My recommendation is to go see this movie on an IMAX screen if this is possible, or at least a theater with a fantastic sound system. It has been two years since a Disney/Pixar movie has been in theaters and their latest deserves some love and dollars.

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