Onward follows brothers Ian and Barley as they finally come of age to receive a magical staff that allows them to reconnect with their father.

Film Review: Onward

Film Reviews

Director: Dan Scanlon

Pixar Animation Studios
In Theaters: 3.06

If you sat through David Ayer‘s urban fantasy flick Bright on Netflix, you should contact an attorney, as you may be entitled to compensation for the pain and anguish it caused you. But also, you may have found yourself thinking that the basic concept of Dungeons & Dragons–style fantasy creatures living in a modern world could have actually made for a good movie. On that note, Disney-Pixar’s Onward is here to confirm that you were right.

Set in a fantastical but ordinary world where magic was once commonplace but has died out, Onward follows Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland), a teenaged elf whose father died before he was born. Ian has grown up with his single mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and his elder brother Barley (Chris Pratt). On Ian’s sixteenth birthday, Mom presents both of her sons with a “your father wanted you to have this, when you were old enough” gift: a wizard’s staff. The staff comes with a spell that will bring their Dad back for only 24 hours so Ian can finally meet him. Prompted by Barley, Ian uses the spell, only to end up with just his father’s legs. The brothers are soon off on a quest to find a way to bring back the rest of their father before time is up.

Onward is a two-dudes-on-a-road-trip movie combined with a heroes-on-a-quest-fantasy, and it’s a combination that couldn’t work more perfectly. This movie has everything you might expect or could even ask for from classic Pixar. The film includes lovable characters, great comedic moments (though it may not be quite up there with the Toy Story films in terms of the belly-laugh ratio) and thrilling action sequences that, in some cases, strongly evoke the best of Indiana Jones. Pratt and Holland make a marvelous duo, and the rest of the voice cast is quite strong, with Octavia Spencer providing plenty of scene-stealing moments as a Manticore who helps the brothers get started on their quest.

The score by Academy Award winner Mychael Danna (Life of Pi) and his brother Jeff Danna really cannot be over praised, and the whole movie is nothing short of magical from beginning to end. As can be expected from Pixar, Onward will tug at your heartstrings—it wouldn’t hurt to bring a box of Kleenex. Even if you’re not as big of a fantasy geek as I am, you will almost certainly leave feeling uplifted and entertained by this outstanding adventure that sets a very high bar for the rest of the blockbusters to come in 2020. –Patrick Gibbs