Onward (2020)- Dan Scanlon

Pixar films have been magic for the audience since Toy Story first graced theatre screens, or one could argue, when Luxo Jr., made his first appearance. With their latest offering, Onward, Pixar takes us into the world of magic.

It seems magic exists, we’ve just let it slide away because it was too much work and there were other, easier ways (science and progress) to achieve similar ends. Or that is how it played out in the world where two elf brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) live.

But when Ian turns sixteen and a spell left by their deceased father gives them a chance to spend one last day with him, the pair find themselves on a quest. Or in a road movie.

And that’s what Onward is, a fantasy themed road movie, or a road themed fantasy movie. Which shouldn’t come as surprise since the quest story and the road movie are pretty interchangeable, but for their realities… not a problem in Onward.

Filled with Pixar’s usual attention to detail (watch for a fast food joint now serving second breakfast), humour and character, the story lulls you into a sense of joy, filling you with laughter before giving us a wonderfully poignant and important to realise for yourself message and ending.

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Holland, is undoubtedly destined to be the Michael J. Fox of his destination, playing teenagers for the rest of his life, lends his voice perfectly to Ian, a young elf struggling to find himself, his confidence, and who his family really is. Pratt’s Barley is boisterous and seems right on the mark with his usual fun turn of performances, and pairing them together as brothers makes the whole movie click.

Onward is steep in fantastical creatures that will no doubt delight fans of mythology, and fantastical both casual and particular, cinematic and literary. There is so much fun going on in this film; the idea that games like Dungeons & Dragons, or Magic: The Gathering could be construed as historically accurate or that Magic is all around us, even in the most commonplace items, or areas, the most unsuspecting people.

The emotional core of a Pixar film is what often separates them from other family fare, and Onward is no different, there is a power message of love and family at the heart of this film, and the things we do for them, to support them, and believe in them. There are some beautifully crafted emotive moments in this film, and the payoffs for each of them are earned each and every time.

There is a massive cast of supporting characters in the tradition of the best road movies, and these bevy of characters are brought to life by talented actors like Octavia Spencer, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Pixar good luck charm John Ratzenberger, Ali Wong, and Tracey Ullman.

It also features a truly enjoyable score by Jeff and Mychael Danna that is both epic and tender as our heroes go on their quest.

This is one to settle in for and enjoy, it took me a short time to buy into the created reality of the film (Pixar’s work has become increasingly photo-real, it’s sometimes rather eye-popping, and still able to balance the cartoon nature of some of its inhabitants), but after that, I realised, as always, Pixar had me by the heart-strings, and I can’t wait to share in the magic again.

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