By: Kevin Jordan
That’s why Andy wanted a Buzz Lightyear doll?
As I usual do for animated flicks, I interviewed my now ten-year old son to talk about the movie. In hindsight, I definitely should have done this before he played in a three-day baseball tournament and forgot half the movie. Stick around at the end for a little bonus commentary from me.
Talk to me Goose.
Wrong movie, dad.
Is there something I should say about Lightyear? Like a catch phrase?
Uhhhhh. Yeeeessss…to infinity and beyond.
Oh good, so you remember the movie.
How is this movie related to Toy Story?
Because Buzz Lightyear is in Toy Story.
Is he a toy in this movie?
No, he’s a human. Well, he’s a space ranger.
What does a space ranger do?
They do stuff in space.
(chuckles) What is he doing in space?
He’s flying jets and stuff. I dunno.
Well what happens in the beginning of the movie?
Well, they crash on this planet, and there’s like plants that try to kill you.
Like flowers, or?
No, big vines.
Do they get off the planet?
Uh, no, because they want to live there.
Are you sure they want to live there?
Well not NOW. Later they do.
So, do they try to leave the planet?
They do try to leave…but they get stuck there.
Why can’t they leave?
Because their ship is broken.
Once they’re stuck on the planet, do they have a new mission?
(nods) To test a ship that can get them off the planet.
Is there something special about the ship?
It can move super fast. Like hyperspeed. They do hyperspeed in this movie.
Does it work?
No, not yet.
What do you mean not yet?
Because they don’t know – the first test didn’t work. And Buzz discovered that back on the planet, four years had passed. But only five minutes passed for Buzz.
When he comes back four years later, what does he find? And no cheating looking at the TV, which is showing the trailer right now.
(giggles) Well, there was a girl space ranger.
Yeah, that was her last name. She’s a, uh…she’s a girl.
Is she in charge or is someone else in charge?
No, I don’t think she’s in charge.
She’s in charge.
So, if four years goes by every time they do the test, how many times does he try before he gives up or succeeds?
Like, five, until he gives up for a while…at least five.
I think more
I said at least!
What happens to Hawthorne?
So you think it’s just twenty years?
No……”it’s been 84 years…”
(rolls eyes and laughs)
All Buzz’s friends are gone. Does he ever succeed?
And what happens?
Well, he basically steals the ship and then he finally does it and then after he goes full hyperspeed, like twenty years pass by.
And what does he find when he lands? Is everybody happy that he did it?
No, they don’t care that Buzz made it.
Is everything good when he lands?
(stare at each other for a long moment)
There’s a robot cat. It’s like the Janet.
Janet from the Good Place?
Yeah, the cat is like a walking database.
Okay, what is the conflict in the movie?
Well, at first the main conflict is a bunch of robots arrive and they all were built by Zurg.
What’s his deal?
He wants to kill Buzz.
He wants the crystal that gives Buzz the ability to do the hyperspeed.
Is there anyone else helping Buzz?
His rookie partners.
How many rookie partners are there?
Four, including Sox the cat.
What did you like the most about the movie?
The part when Buzz finally figures out how to get to hyperspace.
How would you describe the movie?
A kid’s action movie.
Do you think adults will like the movie?
Do you think people who really love Toy Story will like the movie?
Cuz it’s only about one character in Toy Story.
If you were Andy, and you watched this movie, does it make you want to go get a Buzz Lightyear doll?
Because I don’t want a Buzz Lightyear doll.
What’s the last thing you want to say about the movie?
There are a lot of jokes that adults will get.
How much money should people ask for back?
Like five bucks. If they paid twenty dollars, because at times it can be a little boring.
I promised a little from me so SPOILER ALERT. First, this movie was neither over nor underwhelming. I was very whelmed. It’s a perfectly fine movie, but definitely less than what we expect from Pixar. Incidentally, Pixar has been on a bit of a cold streak. I’d say the last very good Pixar film was Incredibles 2 – four years and (now) seven movies ago. Again, none of the last six movies were bad…just decent.
Second, the movie breaks a basic screenwriting rule immediately out of the gate. Show, don’t tell. The very first thing we see are title cards explaining that the movie we are about to watch is the same one Andy watched in 1995 that made him want a Buzz Lightyear action figure. Instead of opening title cards, the movie should have ended with a reveal of Andy walking out of a theater with his mom asking for a Buzz Lightyear figure. Such a fundamental unforced error would have been inexplicable in Pixar’s earlier, better films.
Third, as my son mentioned earlier, the film deals with time-dilation related to travelling at speeds approaching the speed of light (one Einstein’s laws of special relativity), which leads to two very significant plot issues. One involves a reveal about Zurg that doesn’t make sense, even less so after the film attempts an explanation. The other involves the initial ship everyone is on that crashes on the planet. Most science fiction films get around the issue of time dilation by utilizing warp speed or hyperspace or wormholes – in other words, methods of travelling across space outside of actual space. Conversely, Lightyear makes it clear that they are travelling the old-fashioned way (i.e. going really, really fast), so why is Buzz so concerned about getting back to Earth at all (we are told they are 4.1 million light years from Earth) if Earth as they know it will have long since been made uninhabitable by human-induced climate change and ruled by super-intelligent fifteen-foot cockroaches? For that matter, why were they going to Earth before they took the detour?
The saving grace of this film is that, as usual, the animation is unbelievably good, the music is excellent, the characters are likeable, and the humor and action are well-balanced. Unfortunately, those weren’t enough to overcome the film’s flaws, leaving us in disbelief that such a tepid movie could really inspire young Andy to go cuckoo for Lightyear.
Bonus Rating: My son nailed it. Asking for twenty-five percent back is exactly right.