Friday Film Review--"Lightyear"
Just as Star Wars and Marvel universe characters are now featured in their own films and series, why shouldn’t the amazing toys of the world’s first computer animated franchise benefit from expanded storylines? And why not feature the larger-than-life personality of Buzz Lightyear- the heroic sidekick of our beloved Sheriff Woody? Of course, Pixar’s first obstacle was how to generate an origin story of a toy since the answer is obvious, and while I’m sure some fun could be had in a toy factory, in Buzz Lightyear’s case, his space adventures certainly provide better material. Turns out it wasn’t a problem – this is Pixar and additional creativity is a mandate, so the super clever animators use a framing device to make a movie within the original franchise movies. It turns out that Andy, the boy at the heart of the original films, originally got his Buzz Lightyear toy after seeing a movie based upon a fictional space ranger. This is that movie.
Buzz Lightyear, starring the voice of Chris Evans who replaces Tim Allen from the original films, is a fictional human who is an elite star ranger charged with protecting a ship of space explorers. After diverting the ship to confirm possible life forms on a hostile planet, the explorers become marooned. Buzz feels responsible and becomes consumed with getting his crew back to safety. The problem is the spaceship is fueled by special crystals which take years to re-create, and each test flight eats up additional years in space time travel. Buzz as the pilot doesn’t age in the test flights and quickly starts to lose ground with the members of the crew he is marooned with. Just when a breakthrough appears imminent, a new threat arrives to thwart Buzz’s mission. Facing unsurmountable challenges, Buzz is forced to accept he can’t do everything on his own and reluctantly accepts the help of a band of new space ranger-wannabes from the space settlement.
The voice of Chris Evans is given plenty of room to shine and his superhero deep tone packs a hilarious punch. Supporting roles led by Keke Palmer, who was fantastic in Alice at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, deliver the blend of heartfelt companionship and slapstick comedy expected of a Pixar production.
So, on my ski trail rating system, Lightyear earns my highest Black Diamond rating. While the film’s pace is slower than the non-stop action of the Toy Stories and may struggle to hold the attention of small ones under the age of 5, Director Angus MacLane successfully blends new Lightyear hero material and great animation with a deliberate throwback quality. The film is a worthy choice for those looking for an alternative to Top Gun and Jurassic World: Dominion and offers terrific life lessons of teamwork, humility, and family.
Lightyear is rated PG for action and robotic felines.