Review: Lightyear

In 1995, Pixar’s Toy Story was released in theaters and went on to be the second highest grossing film that year (Die Hard with a Vengeance was #1). In the beginning of the film, Andy receives a surprise gift – a Buzz Lightyear action figure from a movie he just watched.

2022’s Lightyear is the movie Andy watched as a kid.

The story opens with Galactic Ranger Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans) and his best friend Alisha (voiced by Uzo Aduba) exploring a planet to see if it’s inhabitable. It’s not long before Buzz and Alisha realize the planet is home to hostile lifeforms. On their escape from the planet, Buzz crashes the vessel aka The Turnip. The crash damaged the hyperspace fuel, leaving Buzz and the other passengers stranded on the hostile planet.

After being stranded for a year, the colony has grown and Buzz is ready to test the new hyperspace fuel. Buzz’s test flights cause him to lose time due to time dilation (a consequence from traveling at lightspeed) – Christopher Nolan did a good job explaining time dilation in Interstellar.

After years of multiple attempts, Buzz gets the correct fuel composition and successfully achieves hyperspace. However, when he lands, he finds the colony under attack by giant robots. Buzz must join forces with the colony defense team that includes Izzy (voiced by Keke Palmer), Mo (voiced by Taika Waititi), and Darby (voiced by Dale Soules). Their plan is to take down the robot ship, deliver the hyperspace fuel to the colony, and leave the planet.

Lightyear is the perfect origin story for a character like Buzz Lightyear. It is a film for children that has commentary on family and teamwork, along with other lessons kids begin learning in pre-school. It also has bigger ideas about living life and appreciating what life has to offer you, even if it wasn’t in your plans. In true Pixar fashion, those questions and answers and discussed with a nice blend of humor and a bit of seriousness that’s appropriate for kids.

The Pixar Universe is full of amazing characters but few are as endearing and loveable as Buzz’s robotic cat named Sox (voiced by Peter Sohn). Sox is easily my favorite Pixar character. Sox steals every scene and perfectly captures the joy and silliness that are the foundation of Pixar films. Sox is so loveable. He’ll make you want a cat, a robot best friend, or both.

If there’s one thing Pixar will do, it’s getting audiences emotionally invested in their characters. 30 minutes in, audiences will be invested in Buzz and Alisha’s friendship that has a very heartfelt payoff. A animated film with space rangers, hostile planets, a robot takeover, and time travel doesn’t focus on that. The film’s focus is the characters and their relationships. Those relationships are the heart of the film and what makes it so charming – it’s what makes these Pixar films so beautiful.

The real triumph of the film isn’t all the splashy animated scenes (they’re very well done), it’s emotions and experiences those scenes were able to capture. It’s hard to recall a sequence that made me jump out of my seat but there are a few scenes that stirred up a lot of emotions.

Lightyear is a movie about a fictional space ranger that exist in the fictional world of Toy Story. What’s not fictional are the concepts and the themes discussed in this film. Pixar used one of its most iconic characters to teach people to take time to stop and smell the roses instead of looking 5 yards ahead. It’s a simple lesson and a much needed reminder for Pixar fans young and old.

Grade: B