Let’s get this out of the way first: Chris Evans is perfectly cast as Buzz Lightyear in Lightyear. Just as Tim Allen was perfect for the toy Buzz in Toy Story. Of course, other elements of the film matter, but I do feel this is the most important one. And it’s successful. So is Lightyear, overall. Its moments of wit and emotion come frequently, and it’s just fun. Lightyear is a space adventure and a story about character growth.
And did I mention it’s fun?
“I’ll never be you.”
Pixar pioneered 3D animation with Toy Story in 1995. They did more than break ground technologically; they started a tradition of quality with their clever storytelling. Since then, they have made 25 more films, three of which were Toy Story sequels. Lightyear is different. You could call it a spinoff. It is presented as the film that inspired the toy Andy receives in Toy Story. This allows for a departure from Pixar’s usual buddy-comedy formula and for some references to the original masterpiece that is Toy Story.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this film is that the viewer can recognize the personality of toy Buzz in the character we see here. Toy Buzz is a heightened, concentrated version of some of the qualities Buzz exhibits in this story. Especially his reluctance to face failure. Human Buzz must learn to be part of a team, just as Toy Buzz does. Besides that, fans are treated to the expected callbacks. Emperor Zurg, lines like “You’re mocking me, aren’t you?”— it’s all here to enjoy. And it’ll probably take more than one viewing to catch them all.
“I’m going to complete the mission.”
This film isn’t perfect. The action moments are engaging, especially one with great camerawork early on, but Pixar has done better. There’s also a time travel aspect to the narrative that opens up potential plot holes, particularly regarding a big twist that I won’t spoil. Also, the world of Toy Story is a well they can’t keep going back to — or it might start to dry up.
Entertaining new characters surround Buzz, though, and that does a lot. Taika Waititi and Keke Palmer voice the most memorable of these, but there’s also adorable robot cat Sox. You’re gonna love Sox. Sox is kind of similar to R2D2 in Star Wars — he can do almost anything!
This is Chris Evans’ movie, though, and he is wonderful. You can truly tell he is enjoying himself and cares about his character.
It’s worth noting that this film is also a step forward for LGBTQ+ representation, through the character of Buzz’s Commander in the beginning of the film. Her sexuality is simply presented as a fact about her, not her point for existing in the story. This kind of representation is always a good thing.
Lightyear may not be top-tier Pixar. But it is worth watching in so many ways that go to infinity and beyond…Oh, come on, you know I had to!
4 stars out of 5
Lightyear is now in theaters.