Onward (2020)

Movie Title: Onward

Year Released: 2020

Rated: PG

Runtime: 1h 42min

Genre: Animation, Fantasy

Director: Dan Scanlon

Writer: Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, Keith Bunin

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

Review: Teenage elf brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) embark on a magical quest to spend one more day with their late father. Like any good adventure, their journey is filled with cryptic maps, impossible obstacles and unimaginable discoveries. But when dear Mom (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) finds out her sons are missing, she teams up with the legendary manticore (Octavia Spencer) to bring her beloved boys back home.

Onward is one of the newest installments from Pixar, and it hits the nail on the head with Pixar's tried and true formula...to an extent. This film features bright, stunning visuals with a sentimental story that will be sure to pull at your heartstrings. There are elves, manticores, centaurs, cyclopes, and dragons. Not to mention, there's magic galore in this mythical adventure where two brothers move heaven and Earth to bring their deceased father back for 24 hours to spend some quality time with him. This is some heavy stuff! And as a result, I don't quite know if kids will fully grasp the magnitude of the story. There's plenty of fun and adventure along the way that will be sure to keep kids intrigued, but some of the heart might be lost in translation. I know from experience that there are a bunch of movies that I watched and enjoyed as a child that I just didn't understand, but in viewing them as an adult, I've gotten a newfound sense of appreciation for the film's message. My guess is that this is the category that this film will fall into, and that is by no means a bad thing!

I personally really enjoyed this movie for all of the adventurous fun that I just mentioned, but I think this movie really benefits from its spectacular character building. Ian and Barley's father passed away before Ian was born, and Barley was too young to build many memories to remember his father by. Both brothers are polar opposites in that Ian lacks confidence and Barley exudes it; oftentimes to his own detriment. As the adventure commences, both characters go through a huge transformation as they learn to work together and bridge the gap between their differing personalities. The story becomes more of a tale about brotherly love and the importance of being there for one another in place of their father. The chemistry between Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, who have previously worked together as Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, is fantastic. I get that it's voice work, but they really sell the brotherly dynamic and being a huge Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, it's nice to hear some familiar voices working together in this film. Onward proves to be a delight, and a film that really displays a lot of fun and character growth to go along with beautiful visuals. Plus, there are plenty of twists and turns around every corner to keep you on your toes. I wouldn't put this film into the top tier of Pixar films with the likes of Toy Story and its wonderful sequels, but I think it's a solid movie that adults will love, and kids will probably love too, but appreciate more as they get older.

"You have to take a risk to go on an adventure." And Onward is a risk worth taking!

Stars (out of 4):

Fun Fact: The Burger Shire, a fast-food restaurant, has a sign reading, "Now serving second breakfast." In the Lord of the Rings books and movies, second breakfast is a meal enjoyed by the Hobbits, who all live in The Shire.


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