The turn of the century should be a time of innovation. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins provides more joy from the Toy Story universe. Is that innovation? Before short, four-minute clip-like moments paved the lull between Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4, feature-length specials were offered to tired parents who needed an hour-long distraction for their children. A saving grace in desperate times, and you can never have too much of a good thing. Lightyear was the only character within that breathing toy hellscape that could survive in a spin-off, standalone show. Tad Stones plays his cards right and directs a seasoned, enjoyable bit of Toy Story filler.
Ditching the exceptionally strong (and expensive) CGI, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins is given the Saturday morning cartoon treatment. Low angle cameras to show our titular hero as the magnificent beast of space he is, power stances next to large rockets and larger confidence displayed by the neighbourly heroism of Tim Allen. While those nostalgic memories of early morning animated antics are a trip down memory lane, there is a feeling throughout that this piece is meant to spawn a spin-off series. There is little more use to it than that, and although the animation style is a nice change of pace, were we ever in doubt of the adaptability of these timeless characters? One brief season of 65 episodes projected this nicely, and this feature kickstarts that series nicely.
Allen brings the usual cocky charm Buzz became synonymous with, and paired with new supporting characters, he and the rest of the cast flourish. They flourish in scenes of entertainment, and unlike the series of features it is based on, the spin-off for Lightyear and his Star Command crew has no depth or heart to it. Nice animation, good action sequences, but ultimately empty. At times throughout, the lack of passion or life for the new characters is overwhelming. Acted competently, and that is the bare minimum provided. We do not ask for much when it comes to entertainment, but when so much art for the younger audience is made with a message in mind, it is somewhat surprising to see that Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins has nothing to say. Especially strange, since Toy Story and its sequels had much to comment on.
It wears the style and substance with respect for the characters old and new, but also dependability that brings out the best in the cast. Wayne Knight and Patrick Warburton offer some small pockets of importance, but Allen and Stones bring an exceptional level of passion to a film that, at the end of it all, is just a promotional feature for a children’s television show. No time to lose and talent to spare, the change of animation style and looser, free-flowing storyline opens up Buzz Lightyear to a whole new appearance. He is no longer the face of accepting change and reality, but a literal star commander. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins is exactly what Toy Story wishes to steer clear of. He was a toy, not a space ranger. He is now the latter, not the former.