TL;DR – It takes a straightforward premise and elevates it with a real heart.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Onward Review –
There has been a couple of attempts in recent times to do the ‘what if the fantasy realm that you know was set in modern times’ and well, on the whole, they have been bad. But as a concept, it is solid, so I have been wondering if anyone would be able to pull it off. Well if anyone can do it, it is Pixar, and boy did they.
So to set the scene, Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is just an average teenage elf, winning math awards, learning how to drive, avoiding his brother Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) and trying to find friends. He is trying to find his place in the world with his brother, who is a bit of a screw-up, and his mother Laurel Lightfoot (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who is trying her best with the chaos. On his 16th birthday, their mother surprises them with a gift from their late father Wilden Lightfoot (Kyle Bornheimer) which turns out to be a magic staff and a spell, one that can bring him back, but only for one day.
From the start, I want to talk about the animation, which given this is Pixar should not be a great surprise, but here we are. The character animations and designs are all stylised, but they work in this context. Where this film excels is in its use of particles and light. The interplay of light a shadow, colour and darkness, is excellent and then it gets elevated when the magic starts flying. Then there are the character animations that you see best in the beautiful rag-doll of Wilden who is a half-elf with the legs, and half stuffed jacket on the top. This creates the world that magic and reality could co-exist as one.
At the heart of this story is a straightforward premise, and that is two boys going on a quest. You have all the elements, like two characters that are very different that have to learn about each other’s strengths. You have Barley who continually has to help even if that help is often more chaos, and then Ian, who is desperately trying to find the confidence that was inside him all along. This film could have been just this, but it takes that premise and elevates it with a story that has real heart behind it.
This is a film about elves, dragons, centaurs, fauns, and even a Manticore (Octavia Spencer), yet it is filled with these deeply relatable moments. That horror of merging onto a highway for the first time is something I still remember. But the revelation that Barley had a forth memory of his father and what that was broke my heart. It is a deft story that can make those fantastical and realistic elements work but here we are.
In the end, do we recommend Onward? Absolutely. This captured my heart even before they mentioned the Gelatinous Cube. But the story was more than that, and it is that story that makes this a joy to watch. If you liked Onward, we can absolutely recommend Coco to you.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Onward
Directed by – Dan Scanlon
Story by – Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley & Keith Bunin
Screenplay by – Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley & Keith Bunin
Music by – Mychael Danna & Jeff Danna
Cinematography by – Sharon Calahan & Adam Habib
Edited by – Catherine Apple
Production/Distribution Companies – Pixar & Disney
Starring – Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, Kyle Bornheimer, Lena Waithe, Ali Wong, Grey Griffin, Tracey Ullman, Wilmer Valderrama, George Psarras & John Ratzenberger
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: G; Germany: 0; New Zealand: G; United Kingdom: U; United States: PG