Onward is the perfect mix of humor and heart. It’s a tale of legacy and rediscovering the magic which binds families together. For a movie that on the surface seems to be about elves going on a quest, Dan Scanlon’s latest project is much more profound. The film asks how far you would go to ensure spending 24 hours with a departed loved one? What would it mean to have one last conversation with a grandparent or a father who was too young when he left this world? For Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt), it would mean everything.
Onward‘s storyline centers around the 16th birthday of Ian and a present their mother (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) was told to give the birthday boy and his brother Barley on that day. Upon unwrapping the package, Ian reads a note stating that their father not only was into wizardry, but he provided them with a spell to bring their father back for one day. Barley is, of course, excited, but Ian is elated. See, his father died before his birth, and Ian never met the man. Filled with angst and a million questions, they attempt the spell, but there is a mishap. The gem used in the spell imploded and only allowed the boys to bring the lower half of their dad back. Now they must go on a quest to retrieve another gem to complete the process before dad’s 24 hours are up.
The animation in Onward, at times, was hypnotic. The bright and intricate color palette was mesmerizing, enhancing the film. Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, and Keith Bunin masterfully weaved in some very relevant themes into this narrative, which made the film more appealing. I loved how the film touched on societal complacency. In this mythical world, all of these magical creatures have become lazy due to technology. Why use their magic if they can google it? The also touches on the power of perception, especially when it comes to remembering lost loved ones. In the film, Ian’s memories of his dad are shaped by Barley because he’s never met the man. Barley’s perceptions end up being a critical part of the tale.
Vocally, Pratt, Holland, and Louis-Dreyfus were fantastic. Octavia Spencer voices a Manticore in the film, which has become too commercial and steals every scene she’s in. Structurally, Onward is tightly constructed, tugging at hearts from beginning to end. Pixar has had some fantastic releases over the years, and their latest is no exception.