Review by Daniel Blackaby June 17, 2022
Lightyear (Christian Movie Review)
Verdict: A solid and entertaining space adventure that contains all the expected hallmarks of a Pixar film, but also features its most prominent LGBTQ subplot yet.
About The Film
Pixar Studios is flying back into theaters. After stirring up controversy earlier this year with Turning Red, the animation studio now sets its sights to infinity and beyond . . . and sparks more controversy along the way.
Much of the pre-release discussion orbiting around the movie has been about the alleged same-sex kiss that was originally intended, then edited out, then (after backlash) reinserted. I suspect much of the post-release conversation will land on this topic as well. We’ll discuss it below, as it is definitely an important element for Christians to consider. But first, lets look at Lightyear as a movie.
People have been confused about what this film is and how it relates to the classic Tim Allen-voiced Buzz Lightyear we all know and love. As the opening credits lay out, this is the in-world movie on which the Buzz Lightyear toy from the Toy Story franchise is supposedly based. In other words, Lightyear is the Star Wars of that fictional world. It’s a clever concept, though not as interesting in practice as in theory. It’s largely an excuse to use a recognizable property to tell an otherwise unrelated science-fiction story. Beyond the famous green and white space suits and a few mannerisms, there really isn’t much to connect Lightyear to Toy Story. Since the central premise is so meta, the story lacks some of the explosive inventiveness and freshness of previous high-concept Pixar movies, such as Soul, Inside Out, or even Turning Red. What it offers is an entertaining and well-crafted space adventure.
What Lightyear may lack in originality it makes up for in fun and excitement. I’ve criticized many recent Pixar films for taking themselves too seriously and sacrificing entertainment value in their exploration of more mature material. Lightyear doesn’t suffer from that problem. There are some of the emotional and introspective moments viewers expect from Pixar, particularly in the first third. After that, the story morphs into a full-on action adventure filled with thrilling scenes and plot twists.
To accomplish his mission and defeat the evil Zurg, Buzz is joined by a quirky crew of junior cadets. All the members are endearing and entertaining. The breakout star is the hilarious AI cat companion, Sox, who steals the show much like Dug the dog did in Up. Lightyear is a consistently funny movie, with humor that feels earned rather than contrived gags.
In the end, Lightyear may not be one of the best Pixar movies, but it’s a solid, entertaining space adventure that will appeal to younger and older audiences alike. This movie would be an easy recommendation if not for a forced LGBTQ subplot that casts a Zurg-sized shadow over the whole thing (see below). There is much to enjoy and appreciate in Lightyear, but Christians and parents will need to decide how (or if) they approach it.
On the Surface
Sexuality: Here we go. Disney/Pixar has been dipping their toes into LGBTQ representation for a while, but they finally take the full plunge in Lightyear. While the discussion has surrounded a same-sex kiss, it’s more a subplot than an isolated moment. Two scenes encompass this storyline. In the first, Buzz (who misses 4 years every time he hyperjumps) comments on his female colleague’s engagement ring, and they discuss how she became engaged to a woman. The scene comes across as a blatant attempt to make a statement.
The second scene, longer and following shortly after the first, is a silent montage—similar to the famous “growing old” montage in Up—in which Buzz makes repeated hyper jumps as everyone around him grows old. To mark the passage of time, he visits his female friend’s apartment whenever he returns. Thus, in the montage, the film showcases the development of that same-sex marriage through the years, from marriage, to raising a daughter, to celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary (which is the moment of the quick, much-publicized kiss). Christian parents will need to decide how to approach this material with their children. Other than one vague reference later in the movie, the LGBTQ subplot is contained to these two scenes.
Beneath The Surface
Engage The Film
Cooperation and Unity
Overall, Lightyear is not quite as deep or mature as other Pixar films, but there are still several interesting and wholesome themes. Younger viewers will pick up on the theme of cooperation and learning to work together as a team. As a space ranger, Buzz is a lone wolf. He is good at what he does and struggles to trust others to help (particularly young people or rookies). Part of his character arc is learning humility and how he is stronger in a team than on his own. The film doesn’t necessarily do the best job at demonstrating his need for others (little the other characters do is of much consequence or actual help), but there is enough there to work as a visual parable for 1 Corinthians 12.
Living in the Present
Another theme the film explores is about embracing the life you’ve been given, not the one you wish you had. Lightyear’s arrogance leads to his ship and crew being stranded on an uncharted planet. He becomes obsessed with completing his “mission” so everyone can live the life they were supposed to live, not realizing that in doing so, life is passing him by.
Verses that come to mind are Ecclesiastes 3, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” and James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”