Rob Reviews "Lightyear"
It hit me the other day that there are almost two complete generations of humans that don’t know a world without any of the “Toy Story” films. Since the first one was released in the mid ‘90s, they have continued to be the flag-bearer for both CGI animation and storytelling for people both young and old. I’m not sure how or why the concept of taking its tied-for-top-billing character and telling us all where the heck his origins were was a thing, but here we are with “Lightyear”.
Given how sensitive I am to spoilers, I am not sure that telling you where this film sits in the “Toy Story” universe is one or not. However, I CAN tell you that it is explained right off the bat right after the Disney and Pixar logos, which I think is done so the audience does not have to spend any unnecessary time focused on that question and can take that energy and use it on the film itself. Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) is a member of the Space Rangers on a mission to seek out new life and new… wait, I don’t need a cease and desist here. Anyway, he and his partner Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) find an uncharted planet that ends up marooning them there for what they believe is a short time as they try to find a fuel source that will get them off of the planet. After the results of some extreme experimentation, Buzz finds himself defending himself and his team from an army of robots led by the mysterious Zurg alongside some new and unexpected friends.
At the risk of being against the grain for a third straight review, I really enjoyed “Lightyear”. The decision that I mentioned earlier about establishing this film’s place really helped me settle in and enjoy the one our and forty minute ride it took me on. Pixar itself continues to wow me by keeping their technology state-of-the-art while maintaining the classic look to its characters that keeps everything familiar.
There is a great story here about understanding your place in the grand scheme of things, friendship, and family that really resonated with me in a way I didn’t expect it to with a very diverse cast of characters that is delightful. I mean, you put Taika Waititi in anything and you have my attention, but he is just a small piece of a much larger puzzle that all works together. Particularly for me was Peter Sohn as Buzz’s robotic cat sidekick, SOX, that I believe will have many like myself wanting to have one in their home. SOX alone kept a smile on my face in each and every scene he was in amongst a great cast that all works together well. There’s even representation from “The Wire” here with an appearance by Isiah Whitlock, Jr. that I enjoyed very much.
If there is a downside here, it lies in the third act of the film. At the reveal of what is really going on with Buzz and Zurg, there could be some confusion amongst the younger set of the story itself but it does work itself out. Also, there is not only the Disney norm of the mid-credits scene, but there is also a quick bit at the VERY end (and by VERY end, I mean after the Disney logo that usually is the end of everything) so be aware of that.
The animation landscape has become very crowded in the last decade or so, and Pixar is doing everything they can to stay competitive and ahead of their contemporaries. With “Lightyear,” there isn’t anything that separates them from the pack, but this is a film that keeps them at the front of my mind with a different type of branch to a franchise that I look forward to seeing again.