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Kavan: Visually stunning ‘Lightyear’ lacks Pixar heart

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With the “Toy Story” franchise having grossed more than $3 billion worldwide, a series of prequels, sequels and spin-offs are clearly inevitable for a franchise that has captivated multiple generations. In “Lightyear,” Pixar hopes to keep the proverbial rocket ship going.

In a bit of a confusing concept, this isn’t about the Buzz Lightyear toy we’ve come to know for the last two decades. Instead, this is about the astronaut that inspired the toy. Unlike the toy, Buzz (Chris Evans) is an actual space ranger.

Always confident, it helps having his best friend with him every step of the way. Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) is Buzz’s commanding officer, but they have each other’s backs in every dangerous mission they encounter.

After a particularly challenging expedition, Buzz makes an uncalculated error and gets himself and the rest of the crew stuck on a desolate planet.

In order to get home, he has to find out how he can reach hyper-speed and stay together in one piece. And it’s more complicated than that. On each attempt, Buzz is only gone for a few minutes, but on the planet, everyone else ages by four years.

After several attempts, and failed ones at that, Buzz’s best friend and peer in Alisha goes from being married, to having a baby, to being a grandmother. This goes on until Alisha’s life is complete. Devastated, Buzz feels as though he failed his best friend and may be stuck on this planet forever.

Following a few more failed attempts to reach hyper-speed, a glimmer of hope appears. Buzz has finally found a crew as determined as him to complete his mission. This crew includes Alisha’s granddaughter, Izzy (Keke Palmer), Mo Morrison (Taika Waitit) and Darby Steel (Dale Soules). As Buzz soon discovers, though, this crew isn’t exactly like his old Space Ranger peers – or even trained.

In order to right his past wrongs and finally return home, Buzz will have to make do with his ragtag crew, and brilliant and loyal feline robot (the star of the show) in Sox (Peter Sohn), to complete his mission. All the while, trying to keep himself and his crew alive from the towering Emperor Zurg (James Brolin), seemingly looking to destroy Buzz every chance he gets.

Perhaps the biggest problem with “Lightyear,” despite the out-of-this-world computer animation we’ve come to expect from Pixar, is the film doesn’t do anything spectacularly. The action, humor and plot are all too comfortable being mediocre at best; nor does the film tug at our hearts like so many previous Pixar films.

Instead of aiming to “Infinity and Beyond,” the film too often aims for the movie theater’s ceiling. With much to see but little to feel, we don’t have that same sense of awe from a franchise that captured many of our hearts and imaginations.

“Lightyear” certainly has its moments. The lovable Sox will be adored even by the staunchest of cat despisers. And Chris Evans, no stranger to playing a hero, clearly distinguishes himself and his iconic character from Tim Allen’s version in the “Toy Story” films.

With a convoluted film concept, “Lightyear” will not lift off like the films that came before it. But for a lazy Sunday afternoon, it’s quality family entertainment that starts and lands in a breeze.

Grade: B-

Blake Kavan works for a technology company in Fremont, NE. In his spare time, he loves to watch and write about movies, primarily of the action and thriller genres. He will contribute reviews for movie enthusiasts to read and enjoy for major motion pictures released. Blake can be reached at blakekavan11@gmail.com.

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