Lightyear ★★½

While Lightyear is far from the worst movie Pixar has ever made, it absolutely is Pixar at its absolute worst. It’s a product that’s frustratingly difficult to feel anything towards. It’s as passable, flavorless, and inoffensive as entertainment gets, incapable of producing any praise more effusive, or criticism more damning than, “it’s fine, I guess.” 

And for the life of my I cannot fathom any explanation for its existence, or why it necessitated a 200 million dollar budget. It’s too perfunctory to imagine any of the legacy members on Pixar’s team legitimately wanted to make this as a passion project, and it’s too divorced from the universe of the Toy Story films to bank on filling seats based on affection for that series (outside of opening text explaining this film was the basis for the Buzz Lightyear toyline, as well as a bunch of repeated lines Buzz said in the Toy Story films, which is supposed to be fan service, I guess?). My original assumption walking in was that this film was being produced to move merchandise, because we all know that’s exactly why Disney poured hundreds of millions of dollars into three Cars and two Airplanes movies, but what’s shocking to me is how little Lightyear contains by way of merchandisable material outside of Socks, the Robot cat. So who was this made for? Who was it at either Disney or Pixar that felt as though we needed an overly earnest, personality voided reimagining of Tim Allen’s classic, comically clueless, deluded, overly serious space man character voiced by one of the most handsome white bread non-hateable actors in Hollywood? If it’s too perfunctory to be anybody’s dream project, too divorced from the source material to be considered fan service, and impossible to merchandise outside of one side character, why does this exist?

I can’t say I’m mad. It’s fine. I’m just confused, and very disappointed, to say the least. Even the worst movies Pixar has made are still bad for interesting reasons (like Luca), or contain the germ of badly developed ideas that could have been interesting (like The Good Dinosaur and Cars 3), or they still have emotionally mature themes that are very well executed even though the actual journey between those moments of emotional maturity is frustratingly uneven (like Onward and Finding Dory and Turning Red) or in the cases of Cars 2 and The Incredibles 2 they were so cynical and brazen in their ambitions to move several million metric butt-tons of merchandise that their existence isn’t anywhere near as confounding, but what was the central conceit here? What are its themes? What is its emotional core? What idea did it’s creators have to work with walking in? What preceded the final decision to begin officially laboring on this project? Was it so Disney could have something non-Marvel related slated for a summer release this year? Because that is literally the only explanation I can fathom.

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