Pixar’s newest movie, Lightyear, is perhaps its most controversial. Despite rumors that it’s one of the worst movies Pixar ever made, though far from Pixar’s best, Lightyear is a solid film with outstanding animation and cinematography, along with clearly developed characters who grow and go through real change throughout the story.
Let’s go ahead and start with controversy #1: the lesbian relationship/kiss. This is a brief relationship (less than a minute of screen-time) and an even more brief kiss (less than a second of screen-time) where Alisha and her lesbian partner, Kiko, are neither tokenized, nor suppressed. This is an issue which most kids are facing, even at a young age, either in their families and in their schools. It is something which parents have the right and responsibility to discuss with their children. Knowing this is part of this movie will hopefully help you decide whether or not it is appropriate for your children to view, and possibly be a reason to have this discussion with them around your family values, before someone else does.
And for controversy #2: Chris Evans does an impeccable Buzz Lightyear impression (he doesn’t sound like Captain America), and despite Tim Allen being replaced, Evans was a seemingly perfect fit for this film.
Lightyear as a film has a strong emotional core about the value of the other people in your life, and not letting your life slip away from you (as outlined in the ‘Mission Perpetual’ montage, the spiritual successor to the ‘Married Life’ sequence from Up). While Buzz’s best friend, Alisha, has accepted their unexpected situation and moves on with her life, Buzz is incapable of doing the same, losing his present life and everyone he knows and loves in the process. Over the course of the rest of the film, he slowly learns to be happy with what he has and not obsess over what he’s lost. He learns that sometimes success, or “finishing the mission,” doesn’t always mean what you want it to mean. Sometimes, what may seem like a failure has just put your life on a new trajectory, and you need to let go of the past and enjoy your present for what it is. At the same time, he also learns that he doesn’t need to do everything by himself - that, if he needs to, he can rely on the people he cares about to be there for him and help him win the day.
While less screen time is attributed to them, Izzy and Mo, characters Buzz learns to care for, both go through their own character arcs, too. Izzy learns she doesn’t need to be her famous grandmother in order to be a Space Ranger or Buzz’s friend - that being herself and playing to her own strengths (instead of trying to be something she’s not) is infinitely more useful to everyone, including herself. She also learns to conquer her fears, and in one very memorable scene, embodies the definition of bravery - doing what must be done to help her friend despite being terrified. And while Mo has the least screen time of all, he manages to learn some important lessons, too. While his clumsy nature makes him feel like an almost constant failure at the beginning of his story, he gradually finds that his little mistakes aren’t the end of the world, and learns to have confidence in himself, faults and all.
Per his usual, the madcap Taika Waititi (Thor Ragnarok) is hilarious as the misfit, Moe, who could have been a rather annoying character in a less capable actor’s hands.
Uzo Aduba (Steven Universe/My Little Pony) was perfect for Alisha Hawthorne, and Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee) gave Alisha’s granddaughter, Izzy, the balanced blend of dorkiness and seriousness called for in each situation.
Without a doubt, Peter Sohn (Ratatouille/ Monsters University) stole the show as Sox, Buzz’s lovable robot cat companion. After seeing the trailers, I thought Sox would be a very shoehorned-in sidekick, but he’s one of the best characters in the whole film, in part due to Sohn’s performance.
Michael Giacchino (Coco/Jurassic World) wrote yet another masterful score. And you can read any interview with Angus MacLane (Finding Dory) about the making of Lightyear, to see for yourself how much he and the entire team, including Galyn Susman (Finding Nemo/Toy Story), really cared about making this an excellent movie. The animation and cinematography are truly outstanding.
If you don’t want to broach the subject or have your child view the lesbian relationship, or if your child isn't ready for the tragedy, failure, tension, or any of the imagery depicted on the movie’s trailers, then this movie probably isn’t for them.
If you take the chance to see Lightyear, it's sure to be a great ride -- with the touch of Pixar’s unique ability to pull your heartstrings -- to Infinity and Beyond.