Lightyear

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Lightyear
"Essentially, what we're getting here is Buzz's origin story, which is all well and good but episodic." | Photo: Disney Pixar

Lately, it seems straightforward adventures are not enough and kids animation has become complicated – and the latest victim is Lightyear, which though it will doubtless hold children’s interest is so convoluted I doubt even adults in the room will feel like unpicking the plot afterwards.

Even the set-up takes some getting used to, if you were expecting the familiar Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story to take you on your travels. This Buzz is not that Buzz but rather, the ‘original’ guy (let’s leave aside that he, being in a ‘film’ is a fictional creation or we’ll all go mad) in the film that Andy loved so much that he begged for his Lightyear toy. This incarnation of Buzz – voiced by Chris Evans rather than Tim Allen – is still gung-ho about his Space Ranger duties, but he lacks some of the bumbling sweet irony of the toy because here, of course, he's taken seriously for the most part.

Copy picture

That said, he has just got his entire crew stranded on a far-flung planet and, in a set-up which takes far too long, we see him trying to test a replacement fuel doohickey that will, he hopes, help them get back home again. The snag is that each time he takes a test run, although it seems to take minutes, years pass on the planet as he speeds through time. Every time he gets back, his friends are older, with only his pet robot cat Sox - like so many sidekicks before him, the best thing in the film - remaining constant. Essentially, what we're getting here is Buzz's origin story, which is all well and good but episodic. The film kicks into gear properly in its second half, in which he returns to find his old partner Alisha (Uzo Aduba) dead of old age and robots holding the humans under siege for reasons unknown. Can he team up with an unlikely trio of cadets - Alisha's plucky granddaughter Izzy Keke Palmer), ankle-tagged ex-con Darby (Dale Soules) and hapless, pen-loving Mo (Taika Waititi) to work out what's going on and save the day? You betcha!

Sox steals every scene he's in, whether he's 'furballing' out a blowtorch or hitting people with knock-out darts and Buzz is likeably realised by Evans – who of course has a sort of built-in feel for this kind of thing after Captain America. There's also some welcome diversity in terms of casting and the fact that Alisha's lesbian marriage is treated as entirely unremarkable, something that has led to the film being banned in a handful of countries but which will hopefully pave the way for the blissful day when none of this is a news 'talking point' at all. As Evans said recently: “The goal is that we can get to a point where it is the norm, and that this doesn’t have to be some uncharted waters, that eventually this is just the way it is.” Amen to that, Mr E.

In general, this feels like familiar adventure territory that could benefit from streamlining - not least because if you consider the 'back story' of what happens in the second part of the film it makes barely any sense at all. The message of friendship and learning from your mistakes while letting them go is as wholesome as you would expect although there's a suspicion a lot of this will go over the heads of the younger members of the audience.

There's been a slew of films lately, including Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Spider-Man: No Way Home that are making me feel increasingly nostalgic - not for the reasons they intend - but for the days when films were much more self-contained, neither looking backwards to those that had gone before or anticipating further films to come, preoccupations which also stop Lightyear from fully delivering satisfaction in the present.

Reviewed on: 17 Jun 2022
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The film that spawned Andy's 'favourite' toy.

Director: Angus MacLane

Writer: Angus MacLane, Matthew Aldrich, Jason Headley

Starring: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, James Brolin, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Angus MacLane, Bill Hader, Efren Ramirez, Keira Hairston

Year: 2022

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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