REVIEW: Latest Disney/Pixar movie ‘Lightyear’ is a better-than-average sci-fi tale helped by its ‘Toy Story’ connection
SALT LAKE CITY — Have you ever wondered why the kid in Toy Story wanted a Buzz Lightyear doll for his birthday? No? Well, Disney & Pixar are going to tell you anyway.
It’s a very meta concept. When real-world audiences watch the new movie Lightyear, they’re supposedly watching the same movie that Andy, the kid in 1995’s Toy Story, supposedly watched and made him want the Buzz Lightyear toy in the first place. Which means part of the fun of watching Lightyear is looking for things that kind of foreshadow what the Buzz Lightyear toys do in the Toy Story movies.
In Lightyear, the Space Rangers of Star Command, including Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans) and his squad mate Alicia Hawthorne (voice of Uzo Aduba), get stranded on a hostile planet–and no it’s not PIZZA PLANET.
Buzz volunteers to test out the rocket fuel they’ve developed with the hope that it’s stable enough to get them all back home to Earth. Problem is, every time he takes a test flight, several years pass for everyone on the planet, while only a few minutes pass for Buzz.
Finally, after one test flight, he encounters an army of ruthless robots commanded by a being called Zurg (voice of James Brolin), who have invaded the planet while he was away, and have trapped almost all of the original spaceship inhabitants and their descendants inside their city.
Now, Buzz and his robot therapy cat SOX (voiced by Peter Sohn) must work with Alicia’s granddaughter and wannabe Space Ranger Izzy (voiced by Keke Palmer) and her inexperienced squad-mates (Dale Soules and the hilarious Taika Waititi) if they are to defeat Zurg, protect the fuel source and save the humans.
THINGS I LIKED
It’s probably no surprise that I liked how amazing the animation was once again. The space flight scenes and those involving robots were the strongest for me, but vegetation, water, buildings and background, clothing and movement of characters have come light years (pun intended), especially when you think back to the original Toy Story. Seeing Buzz without his purple head covering and seeing that he has brown hair were also fun little treats.
This is a surprisingly grounded sci-fi movie where a key plot point is the theory of relativity (meaning the closer to the speed of light you travel, the slower time moves for you relative to everything else), which essentially makes it a time-travel movie as well.
This being Disney and especially Pixar, there is also a great mix of humor and drama, and plenty of stuff for both kids and adults to think about and enjoy. Characters deal grapple with issues related to trust, responsibility, leadership, self-confidence, vulnerability, regret, and of course, friendship. And when the humor is clicking, especially Buzz’s robot cat SOX and Waititi’s character, it’s as funny as anything else.
Lightyear is rated PG for action/peril, but there has already been backlash from some over the film because there is a same-sex couple in the movie and a short kiss between those characters. Some countries are refusing to screen the movie as a result.
For parents who want to know the content and context before seeing the movie, (MINOR SPOILERS HERE) Buzz’s friend and fellow Ranger Alicia meets a scientist among the crew, marries her, raises a child and grows old with her. All of this takes place over a few minutes in a montage of scenes (similar to the first portion of the Disney/Pixar movie Up) showing Buzz returning from each test flight and observing the changes everyone else has gone through while he was away for just a few minutes of his time. The kiss in question is a peck between the two married women as one of them walks in to their 40th anniversary party.
As I always suggest for parents who may have concerns with content in this or any other movie or TV series I review, you might want to check the movie out yourself before you take the kids.
Another warning for those who may not be aware, though Tim Allen provided the voice of Buzz in the Toy Story movies, here he’s voiced by Chris Evans—most famous for playing Captain America in the Marvel movies.
Lightyear’s run time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Lightyear is a better-than-average sci fi movie, that greatly benefits from its connection to the Toy Story world. I do believe that most, if not all, big fans of Disney and Pixar will really like this movie. It is fun to watch for and find little easter eggs that connect to what we’ve seen the toy Buzz Lightyear do in the Toy Story movies.
So for me, the big question became: How much would I like this movie if it wasn’t connected to the Toy Story character?
Answer: I’d still like it, but some of it’s charm and humor would be missing and I’m not sure how much of a hurry I’d be to see it otherwise.
Andy’s final rating: TWO & A HALF out of FOUR stars
WHERE TO WATCH
Lightyear is playing only in theaters for now, with a Disney Plus premiere date still at least a month or so away.
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for KSL 5 TV in Salt Lake City and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.
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