Quick Synopsis: Buzz Lightyear deals with loss and mortality in this film-within-a-film
I love Pixar. They’re almost consistently brilliant (with the exception of Cars and Good Dinosaur), and a new film by them almost feels like an event. On the downside, this means that expectations are always high, but those expectations are usually met.
That’s definitely the case here, it won’t be remembered among the best that Pixar has made, but it does remind you WHY you love them. It’s funny, looks fantastic, has a great story, and breaks you slightly. Most studios would have a film like this as a lazy cash grab, but Pixar has done something different. Instead of just “put some shit together”, they’ve done this: the film that the Buzz Lightyear toys in the Toy Story universe were based on. It’s weird to explain, but it makes sense when they define it. It’s brave for them to do that, but what’s even braver is them deciding to do a film based around time dilation. It works, though. Kids films need to realise that children can understand most concepts as long as you explain them. So you can have films based around the multiverse, you can have films about time travel loops, but you can only do them if you do them well.
On the downside, this was supposed to be a film from the 90’s, but it never really feels like that. There’s a moment where he takes the robot autopilot out and blows it like a video game cartridge, but other than that there’s nothing that really makes you believe this is a 90’s movie. For starters, a film like that would not have that any gay characters that weren’t awful stereotypes. If they added some 90’s music, maybe had voice actors from that time instead of newer younger ones, actually looked at what was popular in that decade and referenced that then it would have worked. I mean, it would have been a MUCH worse film, and wouldn’t have worked, but still, at the moment there seems to be no reason for it to be sold in-universe as a film from the 90’s. Now if you had it as a “The toy company that makes Buzz Lightyear have released a new film” then it would have worked. If you bookended it with Andy watching it with his kids it would have slot into the Toy Story universe seamlessly and could have provided an emotional crux to anchor the film around.
I am aware that is a very minor point, but that’s how picky you have to be to criticise this. It’s incredibly well made and the voice cast is perfect. The biggest compliment I can give it is how well it would work as a standalone movie, cut out the opening card about Toy Story and you can watch this not knowing anything about Toy Story, and still enjoy it. There are no “wait, what’s that about?” “oh, it’s a reference to the other films”. It’s a solid action-adventure film even without the Toy Story references, the fact it’s set in that universe enhances the story rather than explains it.
So in summary, well worth a watch. And a good reminder of how good Pixar are.