Lightyear Parent Guide
This film doesn't live up to Pixar's usual standards. The animation is stellar, but the story doesn't get off the ground.
Parent Movie Review
Buzz Lightyear is a dedicated Space Ranger, devoted to finishing his mission. When a mistake on his part maroons him, his fellow Space Rangers, and an entire group of scientists on a remote and dangerous planet, Buzz knows it’s up to him to get everyone home.
Returning to Earth isn’t going to be quick or easy. The scientists spend a year developing a space base (which seems absurdly fast for a planet with zero infrastructure) and trying to create a fuel cell that will allow a ship to travel at hyperspeed. Each time Buzz does a test flight with newly mixed fuel, the minutes he spends in travel correspond to years experienced by his friends on the planet. Soon, he returns to a planet and society he barely recognizes…and things only get worse when Zurg and his robotic army complicate the plot.
While most movies are depicted as “true” stories – at least in a “make believe” world – there is no pretense that Lightyear is a true story. Instead, the opening credits introduce it as the movie that inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy so beloved of Andy in the Toy Story franchise. Oddly enough, just knowing that nothing on the screen is supposed to be real starts the story off with a bit of distance between it and the audience. That distance never shrinks and is a major weakness in the movie. I love Pixar films and expected the usual combination of peerless animation, intriguing characters, and riveting stories. Lightyear delivers on the first, but it stutters on the other two, leaving me apathetic and, disappointingly, bored for much of the runtime.
Pixar’s record is so strong that I have repeatedly second-guessed my assessment of this production. I’m going to stand by it though: Lightyear doesn’t reach Pixar’s standards. The only fleshed-out character is Buzz himself, and even he isn’t as well rounded as he should be. He exhibits determination, persistence, stubbornness, arrogance, and a certain amount of aloofness. Character growth is thankfully part of the plot and is welcome when it happens, but it feels like it occurs too late in the day. As for the storyline, it is clearly caught in some kind of space/time dislocation because it drags on interminably and feels a good half hour longer than its runtime. I don’t think I have ever clock-watched in a Pixar film before, but after the first half hour (the best part of the film), I was checking my watch every ten minutes.
If you’re trying to decide whether you should take your kids to this movie, I can’t give you a categorical answer – just some questions. Is your youngster obsessed with Buzz Lightyear? He or she will probably love the movie. Action fans will also get a kick out of all the human versus robot fight scenes. Is your kid easily frightened? Then you should probably pick another show. This movie features tentacled monsters that repeatedly attack people, frequent fight scenes (often with weapons), and some incredibly perilous scenes in outer space. If you have strongly held traditional views on sexuality, a kiss between two women and scenes of their family life will probably rule this movie out for you – but families with contemporary attitudes will appreciate the representation.
Should you choose to take your family to this film, there are some bright spots. The animation is stellar and the messages about persistence, hard work, facing your fears, reaching out to others, and learning to re-assess your goals are worth sharing with your kids. Buzz’s latest adventure might not reach to “infinity and beyond” but it provides a bit of a ride for young fans who want to spend some time with their Space Ranger hero.Directed by Angus MacLane. Starring Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi. Running time: 100 minutes. Theatrical release June 17, 2022. Updated June 16, 2022
Watch the trailer for Lightyear
Rating & Content Info
Why is Lightyear rated PG? Lightyear is rated PG by the MPAA for action/peril
Violence: There are frequent scenes of extreme peril, some in outer space, some on the planet’s surface. A tentacled underground monster attacks people throughout the movie’s runtime. Humans respond by cutting off its tentacles whenever they attack. Large flying monsters attack people, sometimes trying to carry them off. Robots attack people with weapons and there are frequent scenes of combat. A main character receives news of a friend’s death through a holographic message. Characters are shot with tranquilizer darts. A spaceship explodes.
Sexual Content: A major female character kisses another woman. Scenes from their family life are seen.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None.
Page last updated June 16, 2022
Lightyear Parents' Guide
Why does the group get marooned on the planet? Is Buzz responsible for the accident? What does he learn from the experience?
How does Buzz respond to the loss of his friends as they age? How does he adjust to the changes in his society?
What does Buzz learn about himself when he meets Zurg? How does getting to know Zurg’s backstory influence the big decision he finally makes?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Disney is never slow to capitalize on its popular characters and there are plenty of kids’ books to choose from that feature the adventures of the toy Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movies. But if you want books about the astronaut in this film, you can try Disney’s Lightyear: The Junior Novelization. Adults and art buffs intrigued by the film’s animation and visual design can try the studio’s publication of The Art of Lightyear.
There are some wonderful non-fiction resources for budding space fans. National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space is a good option for youngsters who want to know “what’s out there”. Older kids looking for something more comprehensive will want to read James Trefil’s Space Atlas. Published by National Geographic, this book provides detailed information about the solar system (and beyond) as well as breathtaking photos.
Kids who want more about space exploration can read about real life astronaut Scott Kelly. In his book, which is illustrated by Andre Ceolin, Kelly shares his life story, with a focus on his year-long mission in space. Elementary school readers will enjoy The Story of Neil Armstrong, which presents the biography of the trailblazing astronaut in an easy-to-read, well illustrated account by Sarah L. Thomson. If your children want some female representation in their space stories, they can read Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream. Written by Tanya Lee Stone, this non-fiction book shares the story of the women who passed the tests of their male colleagues, but who were never given the chance to go into space.
Kids often wonder what it’s like to be an astronaut. Some of their questions can be answered in Meghan McCarthy’s Astronaut Handbook, which provides youngsters with details about astronaut training school. Young readers will appreciate Astronaut Living in Space by Kate Hayden. This easy reader lets kids follow the adventures of a fictional astronaut as she completes training and goes on a space mission. More details about life – and research – in space can be found in The International Space Station by Franklyn M. Branley.
Readers seeking fictional space adventures can begin with Magic Tree House: Midnight on the Moon. In this instalment of the Mary Pope Osborne series, Jack and Annie are hunting for clues on the moon. Another popular kids’ book series to go off-planet is The Magic School Bus. Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen take Ms. Frizzle’s class to outer space in The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System.
Related home video titles:
You can follow the adventures of the toy named for the astronaut in Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, and Toy Story 4.
Muppets from Space brings aliens to earth in a zany film starring Gonzo as he tries to figure out where in the universe he belongs.
When his mother is kidnapped by aliens, Milo hitches a ride on the spaceship so he can save her in Mars Needs Moms.
Raised by scientist parents on a spaceship, Willy has an unexpected adventure when he’s forced to land on an alien planet. His story is told in Terra Willy: Unexplored Planet (also released as Astro Kid.)
For some truly amazing footage in space, you can tune into Wall-E. This classic Pixar film stars Wall-E, a trash compacting robot who is trying to tidy up the mess humans left behind when they fled their ecologically devastated planet to live among the stars.