Lightyear

Lightyear ★★

“Lightyear” is the first movie that Pixar has released in theaters since the start of the pandemic, a return to normal that would feel more exciting if “Lightyear” wasn’t also the first Pixar movie since the start of the pandemic that feels like it only belongs on Disney Plus. Bursting onto the big screen with huge “this project was announced during a shareholders meeting” energy, “Lightyear” is exactly the kind of gratuitous property-mining that corporate streamers were invented to support.

That would still be true if this unexciting “Toy Story” spinoff had been able to match the creative highs of recent Pixar features like “Luca” and “Turning Red,” but its lifelessness and lack of urgency can’t help but exacerbate the feeling that it’s just another sales pitch to stay home — a sad product of its time. Much like the square-jawed Space Ranger who lends this glorified DLC of a film his name, “Lightyear” remains firmly stuck in the past even as it hurtles toward the future. And while screenwriters Jason Headley and Angus MacLane need that push-pull in order to tell a story about reconciling the lure of nostalgia with the potential for something new, it’s hard for a movie to sell us on living in the moment when every scene feels like it’s settling for less.

OK, OK, I know that’s an insufferably pretentious way to open a review of a cartoon aimed at little kids (one little kid in particular), but the most glaring problem with “Lightyear” is that it misses its hyper-specific target audience. Pitched and directed by Pixar vet MacLane (who previously helmed the under-appreciated “Finding Dory”), the film starts with a premise that’s a lot of fun in a “this would probably have worked better as a 15-minute short” sort of way: In “Toy Story,” Andy became obsessed with his Buzz Lightyear action figure after seeing the character in some big Hollywood action movie — “Lightyear” is that movie.

And while I can only hope that millions of six-year-olds are about to prove me very wrong on this point, I’m struggling to believe that any child’s imagination could be set on fire by this awkward space odyssey with its bland locations, dull sidekicks, and deeply uncool villain. Sure, Andy first saw it in 1995, before his brain had been smoothed over by Marvel, “Paw Patrol,” or even “The Phantom Menace,” but the idea that he would drop all of his other toys for an intergalactic dork like Buzz Lightyear has never made less sense than it does here.

~this review continues on IndieWire~