Opening this weekend:
Lightyear--At the beginning of this animated feature from Disney/Pixar we are informed that back in 1995, a little boy named Andy got a toy from his favorite movie. "This is that movie."
The reference, of course, is to Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, the "Space Ranger," voiced in that film by Tim Allen, who competed for Andy's affections with Woody, the cowboy voiced by Tom Hanks. In this new feature Buzz, voiced here by Chris Evans, is the troubled hero of a far-flung sci-fi yarn. At the beginning Buzz, an intrepid hero in the Roger Ramjet vein, screws up while exploring a habitable but dangerous planet, with the result that a huge, radish-shaped spaceship full of scientists in suspended animation gets marooned there.
In trying to resume the space odyssey, Buzz makes repeated attempts to achieve "hyperspace," always falling short, and skipping ahead years each time. He keeps returning from these failed test flights to find a larger and more settled colony than he left, always seemingly less interested in leaving the planet; his fellow Space Ranger and best friend Alisha (Uzo Aduba) is also grayer and has moved on further with her life each time.
The movie has plenty of humor--the best of it, perhaps, from Buzz's deadpan, blandly capable robot cat Sox, voiced by Peter Sohn (Sox reminded me a little of Rags, Woody Allen's robot dog in Sleeper, though Sox proves far more useful). But Lightyear doesn't really have the tone of a comedy; it's surprisingly ambitious and surprisingly poignant. It's about the pain of living with our mistakes, and about the speed with which our lifetimes seem to get away from us.
Like so many of the Pixar films, it's an impressive, thematically complex piece of work. But despite a second act in which Buzz and his band of pals, voiced by the likes of Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi and Dale Soules, battle invading robots, this isn't a rollicking space opera, and it's a little hard to imagine it being Andy's favorite movie.
Culturally, what may be most significant about the film is that it includes a same-sex marriage, complete with a kiss. The significance isn't so much in the relationship itself, which is peripheral to the story, but rather in the splendidly matter-of-fact manner with which it comes across. Again, it belies the supposed conceit of the movie; it's hard to imagine the intensity of the reaction this element would have stirred up in 1995. But it's cheering to note how commonplace it seems today.