Movie Review: Lightyear – SLUG Magazine
Director: Angus MacLane
In theaters 06.17
My nephews, aged three and six, accompanied me to the press screening of Light year. When we were in the car after the movie, six-year-old Timmy said, “You know, it started with this kind of toy story vibe, but then it turned into a whole other movie. It was a well-spoken and astute observation, and one of the proudest moments in this reviewer’s life.
Light year begins with an opening crawl that explains that the movie we’re about to see was the movie that inspired a boy named Andy to ask for a Buzz Lightyear toy in 1995. In other words, it’s Star Wars.
This sets the tone of the film perfectly, which follows a Star Command Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans) on a mission in uncharted space. After an accident, Buzz, his commander and the rest of the crew find themselves stranded on an unexplored planet, T’Kani Prime, 4.2 million light years from Earth. Buzz must find a way to get himself and his comrades, including his “emotional support robot”, a cat named Sox (Pierre Sohn) – return home through hyperspace. While experimenting with a new, alternate fuel source, the crew encounters time dilation issues that significantly complicate matters. Above all, Buzz will have to outrun Zurg, a mysterious alien presence who shows up with a formidable army of robots ready for use.
Writer-director Angus MacLane (Toy Story of Terror!) did not undertake to make a toy story movie here, or even something in that vein. Light year is meant to be a fast-paced and thrilling, albeit kid-friendly, sci-fi adventure that simply uses the connection to toy story as a starting point. Frankly, it’s a way to bring audiences to theaters in a time when people just aren’t coming in droves to see anything that isn’t based on existing IP. If you’re expecting something as brilliant, hilarious, or profound as toy story, you may feel disappointed by Light year. On the other hand, if you compare it to any recent star wars, star trek Where wonder film, Light year compares fairly well with the best of them as great popcorn entertainment with genuinely clever sci-fi elements. Light year also has a lot of humor and heart to those movies, and frankly, I think the small number of critics who don’t like Light year didn’t have as firm a grasp of what they just watched as my precociously sophisticated little nephew.
The cast of characters is memorable. Evans does not replace Tim Allen, he plays a different character who shares a strong kinship with the toy we all love. Evans infuses his performance with just enough Allen inflections to create a strong bond between them while honoring the separate identities of Buzz the action movie hero and Buzz the action figure toy. Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Alice) shines as Izzy, a new Space Ranger Corps recruit, and Sox the cat are endearingly Baby Yoda-level.
Light year is likely to get a lot of positive and negative attention for including a major LGBTQ supporting character with Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba, Orange is the new black), Buzz’s commander and best friend. It’s neither a major plot aspect nor an unfolding romance onscreen, but it does manage to be arguably Disney’s most successful step toward equality in representation. It also introduces children to the concept that men and women can be best friends without their relationship being romantic or sexual in nature. Everything is run beautifully, and anyone who sees a dangerous agenda here needs to step back, take a look at recent hate-fueled world events, and do some serious soul-searching about what it really means to protect their children.
Light year is one of the best adventure movies to come in a number of years, and it’s likely to be among the best of the summer blockbusters. The key to enjoying it is to focus on what the movie is rather than what it isn’t even trying to be. If the public is able to do this, they will find Light year to be a memorable and captivating explosion of space-age fun. –Patrick Gibbs
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