So, here’s the thing about Pixar’s latest feature film ‘Onward’ – don’t watch the trailer. If you have already, forget the trailer. This film is so much more than its messy marketing shows it to be.
Dan Scanlon’s (‘Monsters University’) animated fantasy is set in a modern-day suburban fantasy world and focuses on two brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot (Tom Holland and Chris Pratt), who set off on a quest to finish a spell their father wrote for them before he died. The spell would grant the brothers the ability to bring their father back for 24 hours. But when Ian loses control of the spell, the gem shatters and only half of their father is brought back to life. As magic has been long forgotten in this modern society of mythical creatures, finding a replacement “Phoenix Gem”, the mystical gem required to finish the spell, proves to be nearly impossible. Fortunately for Ian, his goofy, magic enthusiast brother Barley has just the solution – his Quests of Yore game cards. Apparently based on historic events, Barley uses the card as clues to where they could find the gem’s location. The pair set off on road trip and the two very different brothers have to learn to work together to each overcome their own fears and insecurities, in order to reunite with their father before time runs out.
I know what you’re probably thinking. The premise sounds similar to any road trip film ever (but with added magic), and to be honest it’s not much different other than the fantasy elements. That being said though, it’s the unexpected emotion in Onward and solid voice acting from Pratt and Holland that make this one stand out and become another winner for Pixar. The film opts for minimal jokes and action, instead focusing on the story’s heart. Although the jokes and action we do get are fine, they’re just not as over the top as you might have expected from the marketing – but that’s a plus for me. The funniest thing in the film by far has to be Octavia Spencer’s scene stealing character Corey, the Manticore. A fierce warrior turned family-friendly tavern owner who holds the map to the gem they’re looking for. Unfortunately for the boys, all Corey wants is to focus on is getting five star reviews at her establishment and takes some persuading.
Onward is a film the whole family can enjoy. Truthfully this was the first Pixar film I’ve not been excited for at all. I always knew I’d see it (as I always do) but the marketing and pretty bland character designs just didn’t grab me. I thought it would be just another road trip film playing up silly laughs and gags all the way to the end, but I was so wrong. Onward is actually one of the most heartwarming and best written films from Pixar to date. The characters were more memorable than expected, the voice work and animation were both fantastic and I sat smiling ear to ear practically the full time. That is until the third act, where I pretty much cried the full time. The build up to the climax really pays off with an unexpected conclusion that is sure to be a valuable lesson for both kids and adults who have lost a loved one, and those who are yet to experience it.