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Lightyear (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 9, 2022


Featuring the voices of Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, James Brolin, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Efren Ramirez, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Bill Hader, Tim Peake and Keira Hairston.

Screenplay by Jason Headley.

Directed by Angus MacLane.

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios. 110 minutes. Rated PG.

Lightyear has an interesting philosophical quandary – how do you make an origin story for a film about a character that is known not for the character himself, but for a fictional toy version of said character?

Of course, we have met Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movies, but that is Buzz Lightyear the action figure, not Buzz Lightyear the man. And, when you get technical, there is no Buzz Lightyear the man, because he was supposed to be a character from an imaginary space adventure. So, this is supposed to be the non-existent movie that the Buzz Lightyear doll was originally based on.

Got all that?

That is seriously meta.

What we’re saying is that this ain’t your dad’s Buzz Lightyear. And Lightyear is very different from the Toy Story films that it is kind of spun off from. Which is not necessarily a bad thing – while the Toy Story films were mostly wonderful, they were sort of nostalgic comic coming of age films.

Lightyear is more of a space adventure film. It is filling a completely different niche. Which is not even to say that Lightyear isn’t very funny at some points, and it doesn’t have lessons about learning and growth. It’s even nostalgic in an odd way, although it is a nostalgia for the character who we never exactly knew.

Even the character of Buzz Lightyear, while different from the toy version of himself, has similarities to the earlier Toy character – he’s stoic, brave, slightly humorless, slightly self-important, but always willing to go to infinity and beyond to save the day.

All of which seems to be getting deep in the weeds for a kid’s movie about a space ranger fighting off evil robots. And while the contradictions of the character and this film’s place in the Toy Story universe is amusing to ponder for the adults watching Lightyear, most of the kids just want to know if it was cool.

For the most part, the answer to that question is yes.

Lightyear is a fast-moving, smart, funny and just slightly sappy, space opera about the title character trying to save himself and his friends who have been castaways on a desert planet for decades. As he keeps trying to break through to hyper speed to get them away (for literally decades), his friends keep getting older as Buzz, in a time warp, stays the same age.

Eventually everyone else who has been there settles into their new lives on the planet, but Buzz refuses to stop trying to save them. And then the killer robots show up, and Buzz and his ragtag team have to save the day.

It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s fast and it’s fun and it even teaches the requisite Pixar lessons about coming to terms with your place in this world. So maybe Lightyear isn’t all that different from the Toy Story movies after all.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: June 17, 2022.

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