What Went Wrong With Pixar’s Lightyear

6. Maybe the reviews are right, or wrong—or both

Keke Palmer as Izzy Hawthorne, Peter Sohn as Socks, and Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear in Pixar’s Lightyear.

Keke Palmer as Izzy Hawthorne, Peter Sohn as Socks, and Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear in Pixar’s Lightyear.
Photo: Pixar

Moviegoers will ultimately decide Lightyear’s fate, but critics have been wildly polarized by the movie. Jake Wilson of The Age in Australia, writes, “A typical product of the Disney-Pixar-Marvel-Star Wars complex, and far from the worst of its kind. But there’s no question its makers are more concerned with spinning their wheels than with taking a leap into the void.” Matthew Monagle of the Austin Chronicle argues, “Lightyear is a unique miss in Pixar’s catalog, a film that neither commits to its sci-fi imagination nor tries to find authentic moments for kids.” Stephanie Zacharek at Time Magazine slams Lightyear by stating that “Its plot is so hopelessly, desperately Christopher Nolan–style meta, that it caves in on itself.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Barry Hertz at the Globe and Mail praises the film as follows: “If you can divorce Lightyear’s shareholder-appeasing origins from its actual cinematic accomplishments, then we’re left with a rather beautiful, often thrilling, sometimes devastating adventure.” Patrick Gomez of Entertainment Weekly observes that “Kids will love Lightyear. Adults will enjoy it. The only reason it falls short of what we’ve come to expect from Pixar is that they’ve set their own bar so damn high.”

The A.V. Club’s Tomris Laffly, meanwhile, came down somewhere in the middle, saying “Lightyear both struggles to justify the proposition it suggests in its opening and feels like an irrelevant oddity within the beloved Pixar series it claims to expand upon.”

When the consensus is that there’s no consensus, that can be a great opportunity for moviegoers to discover for themselves why it does or doesn’t work. But it also speaks to what may ultimately be the movie’s biggest flaw: When you set out to please the most people possible, you run the risk of pleasing no one. Few have called Lightyear an outright disaster, but for a movie built around the idea of inspiring a little boy’s love, it seems to lack a few of the qualities needed to truly move audiences.

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