I don’t know what audience this film is ultimately directed at. The plot is a little convoluted and complex for kids to relate to, and the adults in the audience will not find it as engaging as it should be as a straight drama. There is humor but it is not of the nature that we are used to in animated fare, and the movie just seems to sit there wanting to be loved but only managing to be respected. Somewhere in the story conferences, the Pixar team missed the heart that they usually find in a film, and instead they settled for the spectacle.
Chris Evans is fine as the voice of Buzz in this Movie about the movie that inspired the kid in another movie to idolize. I do think Tim Allen would have been able to bring the funny a little more often, but the problem is the script rather than just being the actor. The plot here is almost a reimaging of Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” which was a complex, time based space travel film which also has a hard time explaining the time sequence elements that are at it’s heart, but at least that was not simply rushed over. At the end of this film, an antagonist character shows up and it will be very confusing to the kids and he is not well explained to the adults.
The movie looks good, it is a nicely realized attempt to imagine a film that could stir Andy’s imagination and make Buzz the competitor for his affection against Woody. Some of the images cross-over, like the space suit and the laser pointer weapon. The spaceship is a bigger stretch of imagination, but a kid can do that with the right toy. On the other hand, the Turnup ship, the new home base, and the defense shield all feel a little derivative. The robots of Zurg needed to be a bigger part of the story, there is just one element of that which makes much of an impact, the rest of the time they are barely in the background.
The heart that Pixar usually finds in the story is focused on a couple of characters that we needed to have more stakes in. Alisha Hawthorne as Buzz’s best friend and commanding officer, is given an emotional story arc, but it takes place almost entirely out of Bizz’s presence. The time elapse nature of the story keeps her and Buzz from being as connected as they need to be for us to really feel the loss. What Pixar was able to do in a few minutes at the start of “Up”, they can’t replicate in the 105 minutes that this film runs. When Sox, the mechanical cat is the hero of the story, and the key relationship Buzz has on screen, then he should be the heart tugger, and while there is a moment or two, they don’t reach us the way they could.
I saw this in 3D and it made the backgrounds deeper and the foreground more interesting, but there was nothing special about it other than the 3D effect. Nothing pulls you in or startles you by coming off the screen. So the film is serviceable but not special, and that feels like a failure when we are talking about the source. For anyone else, it would be a solid hit.