"Lightyear," Pixar's newest animated adventure, has to have one of the strangest and most meta ideas for a children's movie of all time. If you've seen a trailer, you know that the Buzz Lightyear from this new film is not the toy from the "Toy Story" films voiced by Tim Allen. Instead, Buzz is an actual human Space Ranger this time, voiced by "Captain America" Chris Evans and "Lightyear" as a film is a fairly straight-forward science fiction adventure. This is because in 1995 (when "Toy Story" was set), the little boy, Andy, got the Buzz Lightyear toy from his favorite movie, which was "Lightyear."
I very much enjoyed "Lightyear" as a quirky space adventure even though it doesn't have remotely the same amount of heart that the "Toy Story" films possess. Although, and I guess this might be a hot take, I'm not a huge fan of Tim Allen and his dated and tired schtick about the narrowest of narrow views on masculinity, so I look at Chris Evans as a fairly massive upgrade.
If you're here just to see if I thought this was a good movie, then read no further. "Lightyear" is fun and exciting, and the kids will love it, even though it doesn't carry the same emotional weight as any of the "Toy Story" films. Let's say it's nowhere near as good as "Inside Out," but (I'm so sorry) it's lightyears better than the car franchise. My biggest complaint is that it would have been nice if the movie actually felt a little more like a blockbuster sci-fi flick from 1995.
But "Lightyear" can't exist just as a Pixar kids' movie because whether you notice or even care, we are in the middle of a culture war. It's a fairly painless war that mostly exists on Twitter and in the mouths of talking heads on your infotainment program of choice, but the ramifications of the war could end up being horrifying depending on whether you're liberal, conservative or somewhere in between.
See, "Lightyear" didn't make a staggering amount of money this weekend. It "only" made 50 million. So, conservative outlets look at this as a victory like it's America (in the form of a bald eagle wearing an Uncle Sam hat and a Mr. Peanut monocle) storming the multiplex and pulling its dollars out of the hand of "woke" Hollywood. First of all, Hollywood isn't that woke. If it were, the queer relationship depicted in "Lightyear" that has the parents of the lonely kids at school clutching their pearls couldn't be so easily removed without changing the story (which is what's happening in foreign markets). Sure, the representation is nice, but they're still baby steps.
Also, woke isn't the pejorative conservatives think it is. I know they're really into rebranding words like "Patriot" or "Cancelled" lately, but words have meanings, and they aren't what you randomly decide they are. The slightly disappointing box office results of "Lightyear" aren't because stern-faced families would rather see the "anti-woke" new "Top Gun" (which, hilariously, it's not), but because "Lightyear" has a weird, hyper-meta concept, and it's headed to theaters after the last three Pixar movies went straight to Disney+. When a parent knows they're going to get a massive children's movie sent to their TV in a few weeks at a fraction of what it costs to go to the movie theater, there's not much reason to deal with the multiplex.
These conservative outlets can cheer the very mild financial disappointment of "Lightyear" because they don't like the spooooooky gay agenda (of equality and just being, you know, treated like humans). But I think it's beautiful that we have a massive Disney movie in theaters during Pride month that celebrates LGBTQIA lives. Honestly, I wish "Lightyear" were a lot gayer so we could get this culture war pushed into the next level. I know which side I'm on.
Dir. Angus MacLane
Now Playing at Regal Old Mill, Sisters Movie House