The latest film from Pixar, "Lightyear," has generated a lot of controversy, and rightly so, as it puts forth very prominently, a lesbian couple, their kiss, and a glimpse at their life including the birth and life of a son. The film was banned in a number of countries because of this.
Faithful viewers will want to be aware of this and prepared to talk about it with their kids age appropriately if they do choose to see the film. Very disturbing are the reports that Chris Evans, who voices Buzz Lightyear in the film, has called those who oppose the depiction of the gay couple and their kiss on screen "idiots" for being so backward thinking. Another "Lightyear" actor, Keke Palmer, who plays Izzy, has been quoted as "loving" the way the film normalizes same-sex couples. For anyone who would like to delve a little further into this issue, I'll include a couple of links that may be worth pursuing at the end of this review.
But this is, first and foremost, a film review so let's get to it.
Anyone expecting the brilliance of "Toy Story" and its sequels will be disappointed. It doesn't quite make it to infinity or anywhere beyond. However, "Lightyear" does have its share of laughs and action that kids will enjoy and the accompanying adults will be entertained enough that they're not itching to get out of their seats.
The opening placard tells viewers that in 1995, a boy named Andy got a toy for his birthday. That toy was based on a character from his favorite movie and audiences are about to see that movie.
Buzz Lightyear (voice of Chris Evans), Space Ranger, travels with his best friend and fellow Space Ranger, Commander Alisha Hawthorne (voice of Uzo Aduba), to an unexplored planet. When they try to escape from the killer bugs and plants, their turnip-shaped ship is damaged, and they're marooned along with a bunch of their fellow humans. Trying to use native resources to fashion a new fuel cell for the ship, Buzz is the test pilot who tries it out. He's gone for four minutes but when he returns, he finds that over four YEARS have gone by on the planet. Since he blames himself for breaking the ship in the first place, he dedicates all his energy to perfecting the fuel cell. Each test flight means he misses more and more of life as Alisha lives her own life with her wife, son, and, eventually, granddaughter.
Buzz (Chris Evans) and Alisha (Uzo Aduba) in "Lightyear." © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
After one test flight, Buzz returns to find things much changed. An alien ship is in orbit above the planet and hostile robots patrol the surface. Buzz meets up with Izzy (voice of Keke Palmer), Alisha's granddaughter, a Space Ranger cadet who has gathered around herself a rag-tag group of people who have not yet lost hope. Mo Morrison (voice of Taika Waititi), as an all-around scaredy-cat provides much humor. Darby Steel (voice of Dale Soules) is an aged ex-con with some crazy ideas.
One of the best parts of the film is the robot cat called SOX (voice of Peter Sohn). SOX is meant to be an emotional support and companion animal for Buzz as he deals with the time dilation dilemma but SOX proves to be much more. As Buzz fights the evil Emperor Zurg, controller of evil robots, to keep him from absconding with the fuel cell, he and his not-quite-ready-to-be-space-ranger sidekicks manage to have a semi-cool adventure.
Buzz and his rag-tag crew in "Lightyear." © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
The film gets touted as an "origin story" but what it really is is a family-friendly version/mash-up of every popular sci-fi franchise out there from Star Trek to Star Wars to Stargate. Even though the film doesn't live up to its parent franchise, it does have a few ideas that kids can benefit from. The main one is that the blame game doesn't do anybody any good. Buzz blames himself for damaging the ship in the first place. He feels so bad that he stranded everyone that he works tirelessly to fix his mistake. At a crucial moment, Izzy makes a mistake and Buzz reacts quite badly. Mo, in his inept but endearing way, tells the crew that everyone makes mistakes and to move forward without blame or guilt. This is such an important message for today's young people. We often feel so guilty for making mistakes, especially when the results are embarrassing or make trouble for others. The danger is that our mistakes can lead to faulty thinking that we are no good or idiots for making these mistakes. We need reassurance that everyone makes mistakes and that's OK. We own our mistakes and try to learn from them. We know that although we make mistakes, we are not mistakes. This is something worth talking about.
Buzz and SOX (Peter Sohn) in "Lightyear." © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
Another good life lesson is that we don't have to be perfect to be worthwhile, helpful, or useful. Mo, Darby and Izzy were far from the crew Buzz would have wanted to go up against Zurg with, were far from capable Space Rangers but each found the courage to do what needed to be done, even Izzy with her fear (of all things) of being in space.
Here are two links that look at the gay couple controversy from a Christian perspective if you would like to read further. Providing these links does not imply that the Pauline Center for Media Studies endorses all that is said in these articles/videos.
Should Christian parents allow their children to see "Lightyear"?
Buzz Lightyear Gay Scene Christian reaction
About the Author
Sister Hosea Rupprecht is a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, a religious community dedicated to evangelization with the media. She holds a Master of Theological Studies degree from the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto and an MA in Media Literacy from Webster University in St. Louis.
Sr. Hosea is director of the East Coast office of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, based in Staten Island, NY, and speaks on media literacy and faith to catechists, parents, youth, and young adults. Together with Father Chip Hines, she is the co-host of Searchlight, a Catholic movie review show on Catholic TV. Sr. Hosea is the author of How to Watch Movies with Kids: A Values-Based Strategy, released by Pauline Books & Media.
For the past 15 years, she has facilitated various film dialogues for both children and adults, as well as given presentations on integrating culture, faith and media.