Stars: 3 / 5
Pixar’s “Onward” starring Marvel’s very own Tom Holland (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”) and Chris Pratt (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) take viewers on a bittersweet-tinged quest to bring their late father back to life for just one day. This film unsurprisingly features breathtaking animation, but one thing that helped set “Onward” apart from other Pixar films is that the animation took a back seat to the storyline. The moving and empathetic on screen relationships were put front and center very early on in the film. Although “Onward” could be considered an adventure film, there were many elements that created an overall more dramatic tone.
Directed by Dan Scanlon (“Monsters University”), the film takes place in a suburban fantasy world and is focused around a family of elves. The convenience of technology has replaced the need for magic in their world, and it is hardly ever used by anyone. Brothers Ian (Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Pratt) are at odds at the beginning of the film and only share one thing in common: their desire to see their father again. The younger of the two, Ian, was born after his father’s death, while Barley only spent a few years with his father before his passing and barely remembers him. Ian is characterized as the shy and kind brother, whereas Barley is portrayed as the “screw-up” and most likely to put his foot in his mouth.
The film takes place on Ian’s 16th birthday, which is seemingly a lackluster day until he is given a gift by his mom that is from his late father. Their father leaves them a magic fueled gift that potentially has the power to bring him back to life, but only for 24 hours. It is apparent right away that one of the brothers has a magic touch about him while the other does not. The spell hits a snag when the brothers find out they need to retrieve another gem to fully complete it. Because the spell was only partially completed, only their dad’s waist and below is brought back to life. This inventive and original twist would be great and less creepy if it had not lasted for almost the entirety of the movie. The brothers leash their dad’s waist and drag him along on the quest to find the remaining gem needed to complete the spell. Through many trials and tribulations, the brothers discover that their brotherhood is more important than the quest. Ian and Barley’s relationship evolves beautifully over the course of about 100 minutes.
“Onward” is a definite tearjerker and another heartfelt Pixar production. One main critique of this film is that the targeted age group is somewhat unclear. The animated quest-like nature of the film lends itself to be geared towards young kids, while the subject matter is mature and would seemingly go over the heads of children. This film is “Zootopia” meets “Big Hero 6” with a twinge of “Weekend at Bernie’s.” “Onward” is a great representation of the notion that family is everything.
“Onward” is available for digital purchase now, and it will stream on Disney Plus on April 3.