As origin stories go, ‘Lightyear’ fails to soar, but at least Disney gave us Sox

Its the franchise best new character since Forky.

click to enlarge There he is, the intrepid space explorer and ingenious problem-solver. That's right, I'm talking about SOX the robot cat. Also pictured, Buzz Lightyear. - PHOTO VIA PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS
Photo via Pixar Animation Studios
There he is, the intrepid space explorer and ingenious problem-solver. That's right, I'm talking about SOX the robot cat. Also pictured, Buzz Lightyear.
Thus far, the 2022 Summer Movie Season is proving to be a frustrating and unfulfilling trip down memory lane.

Originally, looking at the release schedule, I was pumped to revisit certain iconic characters that were first introduced decades ago, including Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (1986), Dr.’s Grant, Sadler and Malcolm (1993) or even intrepid space ranger Buzz Lightyear (1995).

Speaking of Buzz, following the success of “Toy Story 4” in 2019, which served as a coda of sorts for the animated franchise, it makes perfect sense that Disney would try to finagle more money from the pockets of parents by turning to individual character adventures.
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As viewers are reminded at the start of “Lightyear,” this is supposed to be the movie that inspired young Andy to ask his parents to buy him a Buzz Lightyear action figure way back in 1995, an event that launched the entire “Toy Story” universe.

Why then did I walk out of a recent screening talking about just one character from the film, which—spoiler alert—most certainly was not Buzz?

That’s right, “Lightyear,” the latest animated marvel from Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios, is a perfectly fine animated space adventure for young children and teenagers. However, the film’s target audience should be parents, or more specifically, longtime “Toy Story” fans who have since grown up to have children of their own. And for those viewers in their mid-to-late 30s and older, “Lightyear” is a huge disappointment minus the debut of SOX, a robotic cat and personal companion gifted to Buzz by his best friend, Alisha Hawthorne, after Buzz accidentally strands their entire space crew on a remote planet home to sentient vegetation.

SOX the cat is the only reason to go see “Lightyear” in a theater and not wait for the film’s premiere on the Disney+ streaming platform.

In fact, I want to see an entire movie centered around SOX, just so we can see what other cool tricks the robot cat has hidden inside its AI-brain, apart from its hysterical flashlight feature and hairball toolkit.

Yes, you’re right, I am being pretty hard on an animated movie, but dammit if there’s one thing that the “Toy Story” franchise has taught us, it’s that animated movies can be much more than a bunch of pixelated dots doing silly things.

I’ve actually teared up watching “Toy Story” movies before because Buzz and Woody and the entire toy chest of playthings embodied and exemplified larger themes that young viewers would encounter later in life as they matured.

Forgive me if I expected more.

I wanted more personality from Buzz. I wanted more action across an alien terrain. I wanted to be thrilled to finally learn the identity of Emperor Zurg, which actually is a highlight in “Lightyear,” but also a missed opportunity, given the reveal lacks the emotional punch of say Woody deciding to stay behind and forge his own path in “Toy Story 4.”

If anything, the takeaway from “Lightyear” is that the film kind of, sort of accomplishes its mission. This is a prequel about a movie that a boy saw that made him want nothing more than to own a toy based on his favorite character from that film. And it did do that.

I say kind of, sort of because the toy I want most after seeing “Lightyear” is not a shiny new space ranger action figure.

I want SOX.

About The Author

John W. Allman

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films...
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