'Lightyear' is great, but the real star of the 'Toy Story' spinoff is a robot cat named Sox

·6 min read
Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear in Lightyear
"Lightyear" is a gorgeous love letter to sci-fi movies that will change the way you think about Buzz.Pixar
  • Warning: There are mild spoilers below for "Lightyear."

  • Chris Evans is great as Buzz, but a robot cat named Sox is the real stand-out.

  • A compelling twist makes the gorgeous sci-fi epic worth a watch.

If you're still confused over whether "Lightyear" is a "Toy Story" prequel, sequel, or spin-off, Pixar quickly clears up any confusion in its opening seconds with two short sentences.

"Lightyear" is supposed to be the favorite movie of Andy, the boy from "Toy Story," that sparked his love for space ranger Buzz Lightyear.

Pixar's first return to theaters since the pandemic follows Buzz (Chris Evans) and a group of space rangers as he maroons them on an alien planet, T'Kani Prime, after wrecking the ship's hyperspeed crystal which allows them to travel home.

Buzz Lightyear hyperspeed crystal
Buzz messes up, royally, in "Lightyear."Disney/Pixar

Buzz makes it his mission to fix his mistake. Unfortunately, every time he flies off to test a new crystal in space, he's horrified to discover that a four-minute trip for him equals four years for his crew mates and best friend and colleague Commander Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba). (Kudos to Pixar for succinctly explaining time dilation with a few digestible, easy-to-comprehend sentences.)

As a result, Buzz wrestles with his promise to complete his mission and let life pass him by or accept that this is his life now, living with the guilt of snatching dreams away from other potential space rangers.

This Pixar film goes deep, but not always deep enough

Buzz Lightyear and Alicia Hawthorne in Lightyear
"Lightyear" can also be read as a film about a man robbing an ambitious Black woman of her space-ranger dreams.Disney/Pixar

If you consider the film from Alisha's point of view, it's messed up. The film can be boiled down to a woman's dreams of traveling and protecting space being dashed by an arrogant man (Buzz) who stranded everyone on a planet.

It's then convenient for the gorgeous white man to not age while the rest of the crew have to suffer the effects of his consequences by never seeing their homes again. The film never explores that angle in-depth. The audience is asked to believe that everyone's satisfied with this fate rather than horrified, scared, or frustrated.

Alisha, to her credit, never once appears to hold a grudge against her dear friend, Buzz. She's surprisingly at peace and even thankful for the turn of events (she receives the film's openly gay moment that has received a lot of press). If that's not how Pixar wants the film to be read then the studio needs to be more deeply committed to diversity behind the screen to prevent being seen as tone-deaf.

A love letter to sci-fi and cinema with an unexpected twist 

Buzz Lightyear and Zurg
I don't need to tell you how beautiful this film is. If you've seen the trailers, you already know. Pixar is peak animation and it somehow just keeps getting better and better with each film.Disney/Pixar

Though an unnecessary entry in the "Toy Story" franchise, "Lightyear" surprises as a gorgeous love letter to sci-fi and cinema with "Star Wars," the "Alien" franchise, and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" serving as inspiration. The film also has a direct parallel to a specific moment from "Avengers: Endgame," in which Evans also starred.

A deeply thought-provoking film for adults and anyone who's made a life-altering mistake they regret, the film delivers one of the most emotional montages since 2009's "Up."

"Lightyear" isn't all doom and gloom, though. One of the film's biggest surprises is that the animated picture plays like a sister film to the recently released "Top Gun: Maverick," seeing as both Maverick and Buzz are daredevil pilots who push their limits in the sky.

Buzz Lightyear, Chris Evans
Buzz heads to the danger zone in "Lightyear" as he attempts to travel to infinity and beyond.Disney/Pixar

A space scene early in "Lightyear" feels so much like the opening of "Maverick" as Buzz desperately tries to push his ship to its full potential that it's difficult to not equate the two in your mind. (The pair would make a great double-feature at theaters.)

However, the real selling point was a great, unexpected twist late in the film, proving that Pixar still has some surprises to offer from this franchise instead of simply milking the "Toy Story" franchise as a cash cow.

Chris Evans is a convincing and charming Buzz

Buzz Lightyear in a space suit
Buzz Lightyear in a space suit

Chris Evans is Buzz Lightyear.Pixar

Evans takes over the role of Buzz Lightyear, which director Angus MacLane told press, including Insider, was purposeful because they didn't want the film to be a "rehash" of "Toy Story." MacLane wanted his Buzz to have the spirit of that character, but not emulate the original performance.

Essentially, you're supposed to believe that Evans is the voice of a movie version of Buzz and that Allen was the man hired to voice the character's toy.

If you're worried that you'll miss Allen in the role here, Evans slips naturally into the role, capturing Buzz's mannerisms and uttering many of his familiar catchphrases.

The downside is that "Lightyear" tries to stuff as many "Toy Story"-related Buzz callbacks as possible into the film so viewers' ears perk up in recognition.

A robot cat named Sox is the best thing about the movie

Buzz Lightyear and Sox
Buzz Lightyear and Sox

Sox is the best thing about "Lightyear."Disney/Pixar

No offense to Buzz, but the real star of "Lightyear," who critics have already gushed over, is Buzz's robot companion and scene-stealing therapy cat, Sox, voiced by Peter Sohn ("The Good Dinosaur").

A swiss-army knife who R2-D2 would be jealous of, Sox not only provides hearty laughs, but also brings a much-needed lightness to the, at times, very serious "Lightyear."

Every kid is going to leave theaters asking for a plush of the lovable feline. I'm sure Pixar is waiting to announce a Disney+ short series with the character.

The film will leave viewers pondering their life choices long after leaving theaters

Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, and Chris Evans in Lightyear
Buzz has to learn to play well with others in "Lightyear."Disney/Pixar

By the film's end, I'm not sure that I've been convinced this was Andy's favorite film growing up, but I am convinced the film generates positive messages for adults and kids alike.

For adults, "Lightyear" serves as a reminder to let go of the past and move forward without regrets. Kids are reminded that it's OK to lean on others. You don't need to do everything alone.

Make sure to stay through the credits for a total of three post-credits scenes, the last of which teases that Pixar may not be done with going to "infinity and beyond."

"Lightyear," also starring Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi, James Brolin, and Dale Soules, is now playing in theaters.

Grade: B+

Read the original article on Insider