Film reviews: Lightyear | Good Luck to You, Leo Grande | Jurassic World Dominion

Lightyear PIC: Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.Lightyear PIC: Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
Lightyear PIC: Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
Pixar’s Buzz Lightyear origins story might not feel all that original, but it’s still made with typical Pixar brio, writes Alistair Harkness

Lightyear (PG) ***

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (15) ***

Jurassic World Dominion (12A) *

The Toy Story franchise travels back to the future with Lightyear, a time-hopping spin-off movie that locates the origins of the Tim Allen-voiced space-ranger toy Buzz Lightyear in a futuristic sci-fi movie released circa 1995. That was the date the first Toy Story film arrived in cinemas and the new film fancifully suggests that its delusional square-jawed hero, with his “to Infinity and beyond” catchphrase, was really a piece of merchandise from this “new” movie, which we’re told was the favourite film of Andy, the little boy in whose room all those toys first came alive. Though this echoes the ingenious plot-twist of Toy Story 2 – in which Woody the cowboy realised he was a spin-off from an old western TV show – that’s about all the meta-fun on offer: the film never grapples with why this movie would have animation or effects work lightyears ahead of anything seen in a mid-1990s Disney film.

Instead, the film reverse engineers a slick sci-fi adventure from the character in which the model for Buzz – now voiced by Captain America star Chris Evans – is a kind of never-play-by-the-rules maverick with a disdain for authority and teamwork and a sense of self-belief that causes him to always push the envelope, even when it threatens the mission at hand. The film takes shape around one such blunder that strands him and his crew on a distant planet with no obvious way to get home. Their only hope, it seems, is Buzz’s determination to risk his own life trying to travel through hyperspace, but his test-runs come at an awful price: for every few minutes he spends in space, his colleagues – including his best-friend Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) – age four years.

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Like a kids’ version of Interstellar, the film uses this to mine deeper themes about what constitutes a meaningful life as Buzz is forced to team up with a new generation of misfits led by his best friend’s astro-phobic granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer). Although what follows never exactly feels essential or original (plot-points from various Star Wars and Star Trek movies are liberally homaged), it’s all done with typical Pixar brio.

In a twist on the usual May-December romantic fiction trope, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande casts Emma Thompson as a retired religious education teacher who hires a sex worker to explore her never awakened sexual desires. Her gigolo of choice is about as far as it’s possible to get from the sleazy, damaged hustler familiar from Jon Voight’s turn in Midnight Cowboy though. In a modern age where high-end sex workers sell an experience via an app (and expect a modicum of understanding and respect from their clients), Thompson’s character, the pseudonymous Nancy, first meets the titular Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) in a smart hotel room, where she babbles nervously about his impressive vocabulary and her own sexual deficiencies while he calmly talks to her like a therapist trying to work through why she’s never been able to achieve an orgasm.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande PIC: Nick WallGood Luck to You, Leo Grande PIC: Nick Wall
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande PIC: Nick Wall

It’s all very civilised and director Sophie Hyde, working from a script by British TV comedian and writer Katy Brand, shoots it like a British romantic comedy, with some of the attendant stiltedness those films have. But as the characters get more intimate, so too does the film, with McCormack and, especially, Thompson cutting through the film’s more mechanical execution to deliver rounded portraits of people yearning for human connection in a judgmental world.

“Jurassic World? Not a fan” quips Jeff Goldblum late on in Jurassic World Dominion. The feeling’s mutual. This sixth instalment of the almost 30-year-old dino franchise is a creative low point, even by the dead-horse-flogging standards of the previous sequels to Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking original. Serving as the concluding chapter of both the Chris Pratt-starring Jurassic World reboot saga and the over-all Jurassic Park series, it contrives to bring back Sam Neill’s palaeontologist Alan Grant and Laura Dern’s palaeobotanist Ellie Grant in a cynical effort to boost the legacy appeal of the franchise now that the nostalgic sight of dinosaurs on the big screen has well and truly worn off (a trick that didn’t work for Jurassic Park III and doesn’t work here).

They’re re-united with Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm – who popped up in the previous instalment – after he invites them to visit the biotech company he’s now working for as a kind of doomsday prophet for profit, running through his chaos-theory prognostications while being mindlessly cheered on by a new generation of scientific disruptors who’ve imbibed the Kool-Aid of their Steve Jobs/Elon Musk-esque leader Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). Dodgson’s company, the not-at-all evil BioSyn, has taken on responsibility for tracking and controlling the genetically engineered dinosaurs that now roam the earth, relocating most of them to a biological preserve in his Bondian compound deep within Italy’s Dolomite mountains where he publicly promises to learn from them to cure disease and help humanity, but is really manufacturing new species of locusts to help him control the world’s food supplies.

A surfeit of plot connects this storyline to Pratt’s dino-whisperer Owen Grady, though there’s very little threat in a movie where even a wild velociraptor can be tamed by the hero promising to rescue its baby.

All films on general release