Despite the good “buzz’ the movie Lightyear is getting from movie critics, it might be a hard sell for Toy Story fans. This is a shame, because it is a pretty good movie. But when the concept for the film was first announced, it was met with some confused people and when the trailer was released for the first time, they were confused all the more.
While some will call Lightyear a sequel to the Toy Story movies, it really isn’t but it IS related to them. The movie begins with a short message stating that in 1995, Andy, the boy featured in the films, was a huge fan of a movie that featured the Buzz Lightyear character, so much so, that he wanted a Buzz Lightyear action figure more than anything else for his birthday. The movie Lightyear is apparently that movie and now we get to see it just as Andy did.
Still not sold? Hmmm. Tough crowd.
Like most Disney/Pixar movies, Lightyear starts out with a simple storyline and gets more complicated as it goes on. It’s a science fiction adventure starring the Space Ranger (this time voiced by Captain Chris Evans America), his commander Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) and the rookie, Featheringhamstan (Bill Hader). The three are the first to get off the ship, aka “The Turnip” to explore the planet T’Kani Prime while over 1,000 scientists and technicians are still in hyper sleep. Faced with a mysterious and aggressive plant vines and large bugs, the three make for a hasty escape, which ends with the whole colony stranded on the planet while trying to create a new fuel source so that they can once again return home.
Though there is a setback, everyone appears to be taking the events in stride because mistakes can happen, but Buzz takes it very hard. Wracked with guilt, he and the crew work tirelessly to come up with a solution. After a year, Buzz tries out a new fuel crystal which must allow him to get to warp speed, or they will be marooned on the planet forever. He goes for a four-minute test flight (not achieving his goal) he comes back to discover that four years have passed – one year for every minute that he was one – but he isn’t a day older. Wracked with guilt, Buzz continues the mission over and over again while everyone one else on the planet continues on with their lives. He is given a robot emotional support cat SOX (Peter Sohn) to help Buzz deal with the changes, but he continues on trying to “finish the mission” that was started. (Expect to find electonic SOX toys on store shelves this December.)
Eventually, people and crewmates have moved on, but a strange alien ship full of robots hovers in the sky above them posing as a threat. Buzz decides to team up with three new recruits from the Junior Zap Patrol, but the three over-eager Izzy (Keke Palmer), the accident prone Mo (Taika Waititi) and former convict Darby Steel (Dale Soules) are less qualified than he thought. Used to doing things on his own, Buzz will have to learn to trust this new ragtag team. Yes, Zurg (James Brolin) does make an appearance in the film, but the standout character is the voice of the overly-helpful, onboard computer I.V.A.N. (Mary McDonald-Lewis).
Directed by Angus MacLane (the co-director of Finding Dory), Lightyear has messages for both kids and their parents watching the film. The number one message is the importance of working as a team. But there is also warning messages for parents so busy with their personal occupations that they miss out on events with family and friends. It can also be argued that this is a film where one needs to embrace they live instead of trying to “escape” like those of us growing up in small towns wanting to move to the big city instead of investing on the life they could have within that small town.
Yes, the film has a few callbacks to the original series, but only a few and I’m sure that there is a Pizza Planet truck driving around someplace, but I didn’t catch it. The iconic body movements of the iconic Buzz Lightyear that we’re used to are replicated here as well as a few classic lines, including “To infinity and…”well, you know.
So, is Lightyear any good? The people who shared the theater during my screening seemed to think so. I give is a solid “B” due to a plot twist near the end of the film (Pixar films ALWAYS have plot twists) that I didn’t really care for. But nonetheless, the film is very funny, encouraging and even exciting. I even noticed the teenager sitting next to me wiping away a tear at one point, something that I’m sure he would be not thrilled with knowing that I put it in my review. Will there be a sequel to the sequel? I don’t know. I suppose that it’s possible, but it will never be as good as Toy Story 2, 3 or 4.
Main Image: Izzy (Keke Palmer), Darby Steel (Dale Soules), Mo (Taika Waititi), Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) and SOX (Peter Sohn) (Disney/Pixar)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.