Film review: ‘Lightyear’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Lightyear, which features space ranger from Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear, is not strictly a Toy Story film.  The idea behind this film is that this is the movie Andy (from Toy Story) would have seen that inspired him to get the Buzz Lightyear doll.  The fact that this back story involves someone being compelled to pick up merchandise is a little disconcerting and the idea that Andy is theoretically being placed in our world or we are being placed in Andy’s world doesn’t quite work.  It feels a little as if we’ve panned around the room in a Toy Story film and stayed fixed on what was playing on a TV in the corner for the entire film.  Viewed separate from these concerns, this mildly comical animated space adventure and action film mostly works but still feels patchy.

The film sees our space hero Buzz (Chris Evans replacing Tim Allen) and the crew of an enormous spaceship carrying out a mission on a remote and hostile planet. When a mistake from Buzz leaves the crew marooned there, he vows to find a way off. Aided by best friend and fellow space ranger, Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer) he experiments with a new fuel that he hopes can propel him and eventually the crew to the phenomenal speeds needed to return home. His test flights, however, have unexpected consequences plunging Buzz into a new adventure and a battle with arch nemesis Zurg (James Brolin).

As much as a film for youngsters, Lightyear seems determined to appeal to older sci fi fans as it references the likes of Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars and Interstellar. Parents shouldn’t fear, though, it doesn’t try to reproduce Alien’s horror elements and isn’t as brain boggling as Interstellar although it does mention time dilation and has a seemingly unnecessary time travel element.

For the most part it’s a fun kinetic, adventure rendered with the remarkably realistic animation for which Pixar is famous.  Here, again, though, the back story gets in the way as it seems unlikely Andy would have seen a film with animation this sophisticated as far back as 1995 when Toy Story came out.

Apart from their technical wizardry, Pixar films are also renowned for their stirring human qualities, particularly their ability to deliver tales of separation and loss that leave iron-fisted tough men weeping in a foetal position on the floor. Lightyear features one quite emotional scene but doesn’t tear your heart from your chest the way, for example, Toy Story 2 did.  Impressively, though, the filmmakers have presented a same sex relationship here with warmth and a complete lack of sensationalism.

The film’s attempts at comedy, though, have mixed success. There are a few genuinely amusing moments mostly courtesy of Buzz’s witty and lovable robot cat buddy named Sox (Peter Sohn) but some of the other banter such as the squabbling between wannabe space rangers Mo (Taika Waititi) and Darby (Dale Soules) is never as funny as it’s meant to be and an endless gag about a pen just seems to show a dearth of ideas.

This film passed the main test of keeping a cinema full of youngsters mostly quiet and attentive although there were a few murmurings as children asked parents to explain the slightly convoluted plot.  Most youngsters and their parents should find this a fun and reasonably exciting adventure if not a film they’ll cherish like the Toy Story franchise.

Nick’s rating:    

Genre: Animated/ action/ adventure/ sci-fi.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Angus MacLane.

Release date: 16th June 2022.

Running time: 105 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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