Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Serious and fun magically mixed well
Cons: I’ve already moved on from any cons
The Bottom Line:
Two brothers questing
Laughs, magic, and serious
Mixed for a good film
To the Quest!
The first time I saw a preview for Onward, I was hooked. It looked like it was going back to what Pixar did best with their first batch of movies, and I couldn’t wait to see this new magic on the screen.
Like many of Pixar’s best movies, this one is set is a world similar to ours but very different. It centers on the Lightfoot family, a family of elves living in a world where modern technology has taken over from magic, something that was just too hard to master. However, some people still cling to it, like Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt), who is spending his gap year rallying to save any landmark connected to the magical past and playing games based on those old magic times. Meanwhile, younger brother Ian (Tom Holland) is trying to survive high school and mom Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is trying to balance everything on her plate.
The movie opens on Ian’s sixteenth birthday, a day that ends with a surprise. Barley and Ian’s father died before Ian was born, but he left something behind for his sons on Ian’s sixteenth birthday. It’s a magic spell that can bring him back for a day. But when the spell stops half way to completion, Ian and Barley must go off on a quest to finish the spell before their day with their dad is over. Will they be able to resurrect their dad for a little bit of time?
The fact that this is set in a world like our but different allows the people behind the scenes to include all kinds of fun sight gags. I love spotting all of them, and I’m sure there are more to find on future viewings.
The movie was advertised as a comedy, and there are plenty of laughs over the course of the movie. How can it not when you’ve got two mismatched brothers on a road trip, er quest, together?
However, the movie also has plenty of serious moments. I was tearing up not too long into the movie, and my eyes kept tearing up over the course of the movie. Ian has really struggled with never knowing his dad, and that plays out over the course of the film. I did suspect this going into the movie based on the previews, so it wasn’t really a surprise. The film leans more to the serious side than the comedy, or at least that’s how it felt to me watching it for the first time.
The film actually does a good job of combining these two very different tones into one cohesive movie. Overall, I would say this movie is more on the serious side and is very bittersweet. Yet I did leave with a smile on my face.
And one reason I left with that smile is because of the film’s message. To get into specifics would get into spoiler territory, but I will say that I really did appreciate the message of the film.
A quick note: one throwaway line from a minor character indicates that she is a lesbian. Parents might want to be aware so they can discuss that aspect with their kids if they are so inclined.
The cast does a fantastic job with their rolls. Outside of the characters I mentioned, the cast includes the likes of Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, and Tracey Ullman. (And yes, John Ratzenberger.) Everyone does a great job bringing their characters to life.
The animation is wonderful as well. While most of it is more on the cartoony side, there are still some shots that show off just how amazing computer animation can be.
Onward is going to be another hit for Pixar. Its sense of fun and magic mix well with the serious moments for a film that will leave all ages entertained.