Onward Movie Review : An emotionally magical journey with humour and thrills

Onward Movie Review

Story: Two elf brothers embark on an adventurous journey to bring their dead father back to life just for a day through magic. How far will they succeed?
Review: Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) are the two teenage elves living with their mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in New Mushroomton. It’s a fantasy world where technology has replaced magic in the lives of its unique and mythical inhabitants.
While Ian is socially awkward and low on confidence, his elder brother is loud and imposing with his love for magic and the old world charm. Just before Ian’s sixteenth birthday, the boys receive a wizard staff from their dead father that can bring him back for 24 hours. This sets them off on an emotional yet exciting and adventurous journey that is full of magic and madness.
Director Dan Scanlon starts slow by giving us a peek into the now ordinary lives of these extraordinary creatures. But once the adventure begins, there’s barely a dull moment. Even with all the fun and action, the film’s emotional quotient stays on top. So much that it becomes quite the tearjerker towards the end.
Tom Holland breathes life into Ian’s character with his perfectly boyish voice. Chris Pratt successfully delivers the essence of Barley’s loud yet layered character, who has a deeply emotional side too. The duo perfectly rub off each other to deliver some of the finest moments in the film. The rest of the cast adds to some riotous humour and frantic action that ups the entertainment quotient. In them is the dangerously adorable biker gang of pixies, a goofy centaur (half human half horse) policeman and the firebrand Manticore (voiced superbly by Octavia Spencer) who has now turned into a docile people pleasing restaurant owner. The film also features an LGBTQ character in one-eyed police officer Specter, who appears in a hilarious scene.

The animation is top-notch and visually appealing. The characters are adequately cartoonish and also highly relatable and humane. The overall story moves on predictable lines but it keeps you hooked with minor plot twists that create suspense, drama and confrontations.
In the end, it’s the heartwarming story that works its magic with humour and thrilling adventures along the way.

The strength of Onward, and what moved me so much, was how it balances both themes - not sacrificing its message for the jokes. Instead, it expertly displays an equal brilliance of humour and emotional impact.

Onward gets its job done and presents themes and questions that are interesting to consider, and if it feels too ambitious for its own good, it's doing more than most of the other films currently in theatres.

“Onward” springs from a deeply personal place and nestles on a heartbreaking premise: the possibility of being able to spend just one more day with a parent who has passed away.

But the high-energy, pop-culture-heavy result feels frantically eager to please, until it tries to yank at your heartstrings in the by-now familiar formula of Pixar Animation. (And of course, the idea of a deceased parent as a crucial plot point is practically on page one of the Disney playbook. My 10-year-old son even commented on this while walking back to the car after a Saturday morning screening.) The film is episodic in structure, leaping from one place to get one thing before leaping to another place to get another, and so on and so on in a series of breathless fetch quests. But in the few moments when it settles down and allows its characters to interact with one another in a meaningful way, “Onward” provides a glimpse of what director and co-writer Dan Scanlon probably was aiming for in sharing an intimate piece of his childhood on the big screen.
Onward Movie Review

Scanlon, who previously directed the lively sequel “Monsters University,” was inspired by the death of his own father when he was just a year old; his brother, who’s a few years older, had only hazy memories. From his own loss, Scanlon—with co-screenwriters Jason Headley and Keith Bunin—tells the story of two elven, blue-haired brothers living with their widowed mother in a suburbia that was once full of magic. Long ago, it was a place of unicorns and mermaids and fairies, resplendent with rolling, green hills and tinged with pixie dust in the air. Now it looks a lot like ... Burbank, actually, where The Walt Disney Co. is based. The mixture of old and new reveals itself in some clever ways—tract houses are shaped like oversized mushrooms and baby dragons serve as perky, slobbery pets. But while the background details can be quite lovely in their tactile realism—shafts of sunlight, bumps of asphalt—the bulbous and simplistic character design is blandly off-putting.

Thankfully, the voice work from stars Tom Holland and Chris Pratt is strong enough to overcome that, somewhat. Holland plays the shy, skinny Ian, who was in his mom’s womb when his dad died; he’s hoping that turning 16 will inspire him to make friends and take chances, and he has a checklist of goals to make it all happen. Pratt plays boisterous big bro Barley, who’s a bit stunted and still living at home with their mom (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who makes you wish there were more to her character); he’s into a Dungeons & Dragons-style role-playing game and drives a retro van with a unicorn emblazoned on the side. Despite their inherent differences (or perhaps because of them), the two have a likable chemistry with each other. So when Barley says playfully to Ian early on, “There’s a mighty warrior inside of you, you just have to let him out,” the sentiment comes from a place of authentic kindness and doesn’t sound as mawkish as it might look on the page. (Plus, it’s just amusing to imagine a world in which Spider-Man and Star Lord are brothers affectionately messing with each other.)

Both guys get a chance to tap into their hidden adventurer when their mom reveals a secret to them, one she was meant to hold onto until Ian’s 16th birthday: Their father left them an ancient staff with a rare gem to place atop it. Those items, along with a few magical words, would bring him back to them for 24 hours—but they could only perform the spell once and they had to get it exactly right. Naturally, in the excitement of this newfound knowledge, nothing goes as planned; they only get halfway through the spell, resulting in their father appearing from the waist down as just a pair of khakis and shoes with whimsical socks. It’s a strange idea and an even stranger image. In order to make the most of their limited time with him, they must go on a journey through their seemingly mundane town to finish what they started and make their dad whole.

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