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Lightyear isn't just a toy anymore

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Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans), a tenacious space ranger, teams up with a ragtag team of rookies to defeat a vicious army of robots, led by the mysterious Zurg (voiced by James Brolin). (100 min.)

Editor's note: Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal and Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood filled in for regular reviewers Glen and Anna Starkey.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF BUZZ Chris Evans voices the iconic space ranger, Buzz Lightyear, in Pixar's latest animated adventure, Lightyear. - IMAGE COURTESY OF PIXAR
  • Image Courtesy Of Pixar
  • A DIFFERENT KIND OF BUZZ Chris Evans voices the iconic space ranger, Buzz Lightyear, in Pixar's latest animated adventure, Lightyear.
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Caleb The first frame of Lightyear casually informs the audience that we're about to watch a movie within a movie. The Buzz Lightyear we all know from Toy Story is a Tim Allen-voiced action figure based on the hero of a 1995 outer space spectacle—the one we're about to experience for ourselves, 27 years after its fictional release date. But Lightyear doesn't always feel like a product of the '90s, although it's littered with references to the era. My favorite nod is a shot of Buzz trying to fix a Nintendo-esque cartridge by blowing on it, which millennials will remember works every time. But the film's plot reminded me more of 2014's Interstellar than any sci-fi movie I grew up watching. Lightyear opens with its titular space ranger and a fleet of his peers stranded on a strange planet. The crew's main ship is severely damaged, and it needs an experimental hyperspace fuel in order to operate again. Buzz tasks himself with attempting to reach hyperspace speed with a smaller rocket several times, but at a cost. Each time Buzz returns from a failed attempt, all of his peers have aged about four years, while he doesn't age at all. Buzz is determined to continue the mission though, and gradually watches as his friends and neighbors grow decades older than him, with some heartbreaking results. If that sounds heavy for a Pixar movie, just remember how the opening 10 minutes of both Finding Nemo and Up made you feel.

Bulbul I didn't have high hopes for this movie at all. I went in wondering who this movie was made for. The Toy Story movies perfectly aligned with my growing-up years, and I thought Lightyear waited too long to come out to be a hit with people my age and older or with kids. But boy, am I glad to be wrong! The movie's packed with well-timed, smart jokes and just the right amount of nostalgia. Plus, if your kids are too young to grasp the greatness of Top Gun: Maverick, take them to watch this instead. Buzz Lightyear and Pete "Maverick" Mitchell could very well be two sides of the same coin. The '80s and '90s are back—what a great time to go to the movies again. Evans fits as the new voice of Buzz—he does have experience playing a do-gooder Marvel crusader, after all. We also get to see Buzz paired with a robotic cat (voiced by Peter Sohn), and a cobbled-together team of misfits voiced by Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer, and Dale Soules. They must find a way to work together, complete an ever-delayed mission, and get home. But will Buzz's pride, guilt, and disdain for rookies stand in their way? Big themes for a kids' movie, but there's that poignant Pixar touch.

Caleb Evans does sound like he's having a lot of fun in the role. I'll personally always prefer Allen's voice as Buzz, but Evans was a great choice for this iteration of the iconic astronaut. Having said that, I can't imagine another actor trying to fill Tom Hanks' shoes—or should I say, boots—if Pixar decided to give Woody the Lightyear treatment. And why stop there? Lightyear could open the floodgates for an entire Toy Story cinematic universe. I would love to see Mr. Potato Head, Bo Peep, Rex, and Slink get their own stand-alone flicks someday. Until then, I'll have to make do with Buzz's solo outing, which I'm not complaining about. Like many Pixar films (I can't vouch for the few I've missed over the years), Lightyear is full of humor, heart, and childlike wonderment but never feels like it was only made with kids in mind. If I was stranded on a deserted planet, the Pixar movie I would want with me is Monsters Inc., but Lightyear is a solid addition to the studio's pantheon.

Bulbul Lightyear sure did seem like a hit with the crowd at the Downtown SLO theater. Kids, parents, and senior citizens alike laughed and cheered throughout. They even clapped at the end—it's definitely been a while since I've seen that, and I go to the movies a lot. Speaking of ends, don't get up and leave immediately. There's not one but two post-credits scenes. Lightyear's premise is fresh. It's pitched as the movie that launched little Andy's (from the Toy Story series) love for the space ranger and his toy counterpart. I can totally see why. I think every kid who enjoyed Toy Story wanted to be Andy in a way because he had talking toys. By watching Lightyear, you kinda get to be Andy for a bit because you get to imagine what he must have felt when he viewed it. If I were one of those kids in the movie theater, I'd totally pester my mom to get me a Buzz Lightyear action figure as soon as the lights went on. Δ

Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal and Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood wrote Split Screen this week. Send comments to gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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