On the surface, “Lightyear,” the latest Pixar film, is a perfectly adequate family space adventure. There’s action, moments of peril, epic visual sizzle, and a robotic cat sidekick that steals the stage. But there’s also a very relevant theme there, just under the film’s highly polished surface.
“Lightyear” operates under the idea that it was the movie that made Andy from “Toy Story” fall in love with Buzz Lightyear, which earned him a Buzz figurine for his birthday. In this film, Cocksure Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) makes it his mission to find a source of fuel that can bring a group of cosmic castaways home.
This mission gains difficulty when a gargantuan mysterious spaceship appears, sending robot drones to the planet and annoying Buzz. Buzz must put his ego aside and team up with a ragtag group that includes his best friend’s granddaughter, Izzy (Keke Palmer), and her cat-bot, Socks (Peter Sohn) in order to succeed in his quest.
Taken at face value, “Lightyear” is an entertaining action-adventure game. It looks gorgeous, has brief moments of humor, and plenty of bot destruction required. The pacing is fast but still slows down from time to time to give Buzz some emotional and heartbreaking scenes. Evans is a perfect fit for our barrel-chested hero, though he’s given me “Captain America” flashbacks more than once.
It all works pretty well, but what impressed me most about “Lightyear” was something I almost missed. I didn’t even understand until I drove home trying to figure out what to say about this movie. What impressed me the most is what “Lightyear” really is.
The main plot deals with Buzz burning through time as he tries to find a way back to a world that no longer exists. He is literally trying to trade the possibilities of his current existence for one that has been gone for decades. This movie is literally a sci-fi parable about making the best of your current situation instead of ruining it by chasing a past you can no longer have. When that realization hit me, “Lightyear” became more than the last family action-adventure movie.
“Lightyear” can be seen and enjoyed as an action-packed space adventure with beautiful visuals and fun visuals. It’s perfectly fine and you’ll have a great time doing it. But this movie was more thoughtful than I initially wanted to believe and ultimately that makes this movie a richer experience.
Also, Socks the Cat-Bot was awesome and I want one like him.