Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Disney and Pixar have a lot of successful greatest hits in the past ranging from Toy Story to CoCo. For me, Onward joins the same ranks with enough charm and magic sending us on an exciting adventure with realistic themes and undertones.
The first scene sets the tone for the whole film. Onward opens our eyes to a magical world full of creatures including elves, pixies and trolls to name a few. The narration describes the world as one that’s “filled with wonder”. We focus on wizardry and training of magic when technology is invented, forcing magic to be something of the past. Pixar once again tells us a groundbreaking story reflecting real-world problems sprinkled with pixie dust and a dash of realism.
Now the world looks similar to ours, a suburban wasteland. This world is now filled with homes, street lights and parents worried about money, school and rent. It’s refreshing that our hero isn’t a warrior, but an everyday elf. This elf has everyday problems, being socially awkward and hardly any confidence in daily tasks like learning how to drive. This elf is called Ian (Tom Holland) who wants nothing but a normal life.
On his 16th birthday his mum (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gave him and his brother Barley (Chris Pratt) a secret gift from their late father. It was their father’s old wizard staff, which has the power to bring their dad back to life for 24 hours. Magic is nearly non-existent in the world and Ian struggles to control the spell, resulting in to only conjuring the bottom half of his father’s body. The two brothers set on an exciting adventure to fix the spell to see their father one last time.
They jump straight into Barley’s van and off they go on a mighty quest. Where will this adventure take them? A gas station full of biker thug pixies? A mystical deadly tavern turned family restaurant? Why not? But one thing is certain, a fun adventure awaits the two brothers and we have been invited along for the ride.
Onward focused on family dynamics. The love-hate relationship between the two siblings is completely relatable to the audience. Director Dan Scanlon delivers a movie that shows emotions that feel genuine. Dan is a younger brother who lost his father from a young age, this intensity and honesty transcends within the animation.
Onward is packed with real brotherly love as they encourage and set aside their differences to conquer the time restricted quest. As Barley knows a lot about the magic histories being obsessed with fantasy games, he helps his brother learn new spells and build enough confidence to become the wizard he knows his brother can be.
The animation is fueled up with comedy and fun too. The two brothers stuff a hoodie and put glass on their fathers legs, making the animation scream a humorous Weekend at Bernie’s vibe. Onward is full of quirky gags as it embodies the eldest brother’s motto, “You got to work with what you got”.
As Ian is constantly learning how to use the staff, this stops Onward overflowing with different spells and magic, but instead showing us enough magic tricks to keep us engaged. Pixar has mastered giving their animation a sense of humanity. This tale of two brothers on an emotional road trip mirrors many of our own journeys from relationship to self growth. Many of us spend a lot of our lives looking for closure for something that isn’t in our control. In reality, whatever God people believe in or a sprinkle of magic, a lot of us find out more about ourselves and become stronger individuals.