★★★★

In 1995, Disney/Pixar introduced audiences to a delightful movie that begged the question: Do toys have feelings? Decades later, the same studio has decided to revisit one of its most beloved toys, Buzz Lightyear. The boy, Andy, in the original Toy Story longed for a Buzz Lightyear action figure for his birthday. He received the gift, and the space ranger quickly became the rival of Woody, Andy’s former favorite toy. Lightyear is imagined as the film that Andy saw that made him want his own Buzz.

Lightyear, directed by Angus MacLane, tells the story of young Buzz, a space ranger who causes a huge crew of astronauts and scientists to become marooned on a hostile planet. Though Tim Allen provided the voice for the iconic Toy Story version of Buzz, Pixar tapped Chris Evans of Marvel’s Captain America fame to voice the film version of the character.

Children will enjoy seeing Andy’s favorite toy in his own feature, but families need to know this is not a Toy Story movie. Lightyear is a serious sci-fi animated film that expertly deals with common tropes such as aliens, robots, and, most notably, complex time travel. Director MacLane’s love of sci-fi is evident throughout the film as the characters deal with life on an uncharted planet after their space station crashes.

Though the film is steeped in time travel and space exploration, its themes are more human. The conflicts deal with independence versus community and self-reliance versus trusting others. Lightyear is all about Buzz and his journey inward. From the start of the film, Buzz says he’d rather do everything on his own though he has a very close friendship with his fellow ranger Alisha, voiced by Orange is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba. Because Buzz is so mission-focused, he misses out on a literal lifetime of friendship with Alisha and doesn’t realize it until it’s too late.

However, this is a Disney/Pixar story. Woody may have tried to sabotage Buzz at every turn in Toy Story, but the former eventually finds redemption as he rescues the space ranger from the clutches of the evil neighbor Sid. Just like Woody, all is not lost for Buzz, even when times seem the darkest. Buzz may think of himself as the last space ranger, but there are still people who are ready and willing to help him.

By the end of Lightyear, though it’s a much more serious, less brightly colored movie than its predecessor, Randy Newman’s song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” would somehow still be appropriate during the credits. The space ranger finds redemption through learning to depend on others and understanding that making mistakes is part of the journey. It seems Buzz learned the lesson of friendship long before his future rival Woody would in a galaxy far away. Audiences will hope there may be more to Lightyear’s story in the future, after all, Buzz does believe in something beyond infinity.