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Lightyear Reviews Have Arrived, Check Out What Critics Have To Say About The New Pixar Adventure

Buzz Lightyear in ship in Lightyear
(Image credit: Disney)

Audiences are likely more than ready to go “to infinity and beyond,” as Pixar returns to the big screen this weekend with the premiere of Lightyear. The origin story of space ranger Buzz Lightyear — on which the Toy Story action figure is based — stars Chris Evans as the titular character, alongside a capable cast that includes Uzo Aduba, Keke Palmer, James Brolin, Taika Waititi and Peter Sohn — who voices Sox, the character everyone was talking about in their first reactions to the screening. Now critics’ reviews are out, so what did they think of the movie overall?

The first reactions to Lightyear sounded pretty promising, with most the movie's early audiences praising the to-be-expected phenomenal animation. Buzz’s robotic cat sidekick Sox also had everyone buzzing, and I think we can all expect to see that merchandise popping up everywhere! There were a few notes on the strength of the plot, however, so let’s get to the reviews, starting with CinemaBlend’s review of Lightyear. Mike Reyes rates the movie 3.5 stars out of 5, saying the spinoff honors and enhances its timeless character in an excitingly fresh manner:

It’s a little bit rocky at the start, as the proper tone takes a little while to be set into motion. Once Lightyear finds its lane, it doesn’t stop, zooming straight through an adventure dealing with true blue hero stuff. While it may not reach infinity, the finished story absolutely goes beyond what one could have expected. By time I had reached the ending, I was already excited to see where the sequels could go, grinning at the final shot as if it was my first time watching Toy Story.

Scott Mendelson of Forbes finds a balance between the spinoff’s obvious marketing opportunities and the adventure, saying this movie is worth seeing for fans who have been looking forward to it, but it’s not quite triumphant enough to get the unconverted off the fence:

At its best moments, including some genuine emotional melancholy in the first and third acts, Lightyear plays as a film that took its commercial motivations not as an excuse or a crutch but as an artistic challenge, not unlike Creed II or The LEGO Movie. It’s not that good; it’s still very much a commercially motivated piece of art with multi-platform media franchise aspirations. However, nobody involved phoned it in.

Tomris Laffly of AV Club grades Lightyear a C+, admitting that while there’s some fun to be had with this animated adventure, the spinoff is ultimately inconsequential, and its plot excesses cause its messages to miss their mark:

What ultimately waters down Lightyear, an otherwise polished, gorgeous-looking entry into the Pixar oeuvre, is an absence of the excitement and disciplined storytelling spirit that made Toy Story such a pioneering hit. Even Michael Giacchino’s splendid score goes only so far towards insinuating a grand adventure that ultimately feels a little trite and bloated. Aiming for infinity and beyond, Lightyear frustratingly feels trapped on earth.

Alonso Duralde of The Wrap agrees with some of the above criticisms, saying that while Lightyear is “perfectly OK,” Pixar has set such a high bar that “perfectly OK” doesn’t cut it. He says this sci-fi spinoff is able to capture only a fraction of the comedy, thrills and poignancy that made us fall in love with the Toy Story movies:

You can probably also play Bingo with the Pixar plot tropes on display, from the tear-jerking montage to the vainglorious villain. In better Pixar movies, we see certain plot points coming from a mile away but are too engaged to mind, but Buzz never becomes particularly interesting or empathetic beyond his role as a ‘character who spawns a toy we care about in other movies.’

Aaron Neuwirth of We Live Entertainment rates the movie a 7 out of 10, saying that, sure, there was an air of predictability to the story, but that didn’t detract from the critic’s enjoyment of the movie:

The fun is a big part of the point, however, and Lightyear delivers on it without wasting any time. This is an enjoyable film that looks and sounds great. Pixar wanted to deliver something akin to a wild space opera, and it has done so. I enjoyed this exciting twist on the character as far as the world it chose to open up. I don’t know what Andy’s up to these days (probably something boring, as Sid from next door was far more creative), but I can see how a younger version of him would have been swept up in this space odyssey.

David Rooney of THR also thinks Lightyear is a blast, saying his biggest complaint is that he’s now low-key obsessed with getting a Sox of his own: 

Since ranking now seems obligatory, this is solid mid-tier Pixar with plenty of kid appeal and a significant nostalgia factor for fans of ‘80s and ‘90s sci-fi. It can’t touch the studio’s space-age masterpiece, Wall-E, or Brad Bird’s ineffably moving The Iron Giant. But the beauty of the outer-space environments and the expressive charm of the characters should make this play well as the first Pixar release to hit theaters since the pandemic began. That includes IMAX screens, with parts of the film specifically shot in the larger format.

The critics seem a little conflicted about how they received Pixar’s first post-COVID foray into theaters, but fans of the Toy Story franchise aren’t likely to let anything stop them. If you want to check out Lightyear, you can do so starting Friday, June 17. Be sure to also check out our 2022 movie release calendar to see what other films are headed to theaters soon and start planning your next trip to the movies!

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.