While spending years attempting to return home, marooned Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear encounters an army of ruthless robots commanded by Zurg who are attempting to steal his fuel source. (from IMDB)
Pixar's latest effort, Lightyear, has been polarizing audiences since its release. The first moments of the movie reveal to the audience via white text on a black screen that little Andy from 1995's Toy Story became a Buzz Lightyear fan because he watched a Buzz Lightyear movie... and this is that movie. However, there's so much about this movie that doesn't seem to line up with the original Toy Story that you have to wonder if the filmmakers even watched the original film.
For starters, Tim Allen's iconic voice performance as Buzz Lightyear for all 4 Toy Story movies, the three Toy Story Toons animated shorts, and the two holiday specials has been replaced by Chris Evans. I love Evans as Captain America, and he is able to capture some of the spirit of Buzz here, but he just isn't Tim Allen -- and for that matter, Buzz Lightyear. So if this is the movie that made Andy a Buzz fan... why do the toys have a different voice than the one in the movie? Sure, that sometimes happens with toys, but that actually makes Allen's Buzz generic and inauthentic. That would kind of imply that Allen's voice is a knock-off of Buzz. And let's face it - that's just offensive to consider. Then there's the fact that Buzz has a cat companion named Sox in this movie. Sox is cute, funny, and lovable, so why wouldn't Andy have gotten a toy of that? And how come we've NEVER heard of Sox from Buzz before? (Heck, they could make an entire Toy Story adventure where Buzz tries to find his missing toy, Sox!) Also, with this movie being from 1995 or earlier, the effects are infinitely better than anything we would have seen back then. This is a minor gripe, but that then brings up another cultural consideration: No kids movie in 1995 would have featured a lesbian as a main character, let alone Buzz's partner. The movie is anything but subtle about this, and keeps pushing to make sure no one misses the fact that Hawthorne gets engaged to a woman, marries her, somehow has a child with her, and celebrates an anniversary with her (complete with a quick kiss on the lips). This is 2022 nonsense, not anything even Disney would have tried to push in 1995. Lastly, there's the big baddie, Zurg, which is completely ruined here. He was a cool adversary for Buzz in the Toy Story movies, but they completely rewrite who the character is here - to the point where nothing in the Toy Story movies makes sense for Zurg. I just don't get how they greenlit this movie at all. The Pixar quality we've come to expect from the studio is just not here.
The plot is a grim and surprisingly "simple" one. It revolves around Buzz making a mistake and causing his team to get stranded on a strange planet. And as they test different kinds of fuel to hopefully allow them to jump to hyperspace, each time Buzz takes to the stars for a short test-run, he returns to the planet below to find that 4 years have passed. It feels a lot like that terrible 1998 theatrical version of Lost in Space-meets-Interstellar-meets-The LEGO Movie 2. If you think that sounds like a weird combination, it definitely is. Not surprisingly, the movie has the feel of a Star Trek episode (or one of the lesser feature films), and seems to be missing the charm of what you'd expect from a Buzz Lightyear feature story. The best character next to Buzz is undoubtedly his robot cat, Sox, voiced by Peter Sohn. Sox offers the best comedic relief in the film. Other than this pair, the characters aren't very memorable. I often find Taika Waititi amusing, but even he couldn't elevate his character, Mo Morrison, who just wasn't that funny (when he's supposed to be). The movie does offer a couple laughs -- my favorite being when Buzz removes his navigating system IVAN and blows on it like an old Nintendo game cartridge and puts it back into the console where it starts working again -- but, for the most part, Lightyear just isn't that funny (when it should be).
So... is there anything good about Lightyear? Aside from spectacular animation and visuals, and a solid voice performance from Evans, Lightyear works decently as a standalone sci-fi adventure. Forget that it's supposed to be the beloved Buzz Lightyear and the movie really isn't that bad. Still, due to its forgettable premise, downer storyline, and unoriginal ideas, you would never guess it's a Pixar movie. I think we've actually come to a point where Disney's own animation studio is finally putting out better movies than Pixar -- and that hurts to even consider. Lightyear's story - and it's "twist" - is hardly unique (which is why I named those three other sci-fi movies earlier), but as an entertaining action adventure for kids, it mostly works. Again -- you'd just have to forget it's supposed to be our Buzz Lightyear.
The content for Lightyear isn't too bad, apart from the aforementioned lesbian side plot. Early in the story, once Buzz returns from his first mission attempt when four years have passed, Alisha Hawthorne exclaims to him, "I got engaged!" and flashes a diamond ring at Buzz. His immediate, nonchalant reaction is "That's great! What's her name?" It's played off as completely normal that Alisha would have a fellow female fiance. There's then a montage that shows the women together while one of them is pregnant, then with a child, then later celebrating their anniversary when we see them briefly kiss on the lips. After this segment, that relationship is never mentioned again (and there are no other same-sex relationships shown), but Disney has made it clear enough that kids will have a hard time missing it -- and who knows if parents are ready for that conversation with their kids. It's so frustrating that this studio just keeps pushing to normalize the same-sex lifestyle -- especially to children. Otherwise, there is no profanity (although a couple uses of "Shoot!" had me checking the subtitles to be sure, since they sounded awfully close), but there is quite a bit of action violence. At one point, Buzz even has a couple bloody cuts and abrasions on his face, but it isn't especially graphic. Otherwise, we see green goo splatter when large moving vines are sliced, and purple blood splatter when large insects are shot or sliced.
Ever since the first trailer for Lightyear was released in 2021, I wondered why this even had to exist, but I knew it was Pixar and I was hoping for the best. However, this movie seems haphazardly planned (and spiteful in its social politics-pushing), and one that tarnishes the legacy of Buzz Lightyear -- from the character and voice to his arch-nemesis, Zurg. If you're not too attached to the characters and just love a decent sci-fi movie, Lightyear just might scratch your itch. Otherwise, it's a frightfully misguided and altogether forgettable Pixar effort. By the way, if you do decide to see the movie, there's a mid-credits bonus scene, a scene after the credits, and then yet another little scene after the Disney logo that plays after the post-credits scene. (That last one teases a potential future adventure.)- John DiBiase (reviewed: 8/10/22)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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