Home Onward

Onward (U)

Cast: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer
Genre: Comedy
Author(s): Jason Headley, Dan Scanlon, Keith Bunin
Director: Dan Scanlon
Release Date: 06/03/2020
Running Time: 114mins
Country: US
Year: 2020

Ian Lightfoot and his older brother Barley live in New Mushroomton with their mother Laurel many years after ancient magic and spellcasting have died out. The boys' father lost his battle to cancer before Ian was born and when Barley was too young to remember. When Ian turns 16, the boys receive a magician's staff, a glittering Phoenix Gem and instructions for an incantation that will supposedly reanimate their father for one whole day. The spellcasting doesn't go entirely to plan.


 

LondonNet Film Review
Onward (U)

True magic is the invisible bond between family and friends, which inspires courage, daring and self-sacrifice, in Disney Pixar’s life-affirming tale of two siblings who repair their strained relationship on an epic quest of self-discovery. Inspired by the childhood loss of director Dan Scanlon, Onward is an unabashedly heartfelt valentine to brotherly love set in a fantastical world, which has gradually surrendered ancient tradition to the steady onslaught of technological invention and convenience. Electric light bulbs have replaced the need for wizards to illuminate homes with wands, fire-breathing dragons are reduced to household pets, stray unicorns forage for scraps in dustbins and centaur police travel by car rather than relying on their clattering hooves…

Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) in Onward, directed by Dan Scanlon. Photo: courtesy Disney Pixar. Copyright: 2020 Disney Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Scanlon’s script, co-written by Jason Headley and Keith Bunin, trades predominantly in goofy humour, concealing the inevitable knockout blows in a final act that will have grown men weeping uncontrollably in the dark. Compared to Disney Pixar’s recent offerings Coco and Toy Story 4, Onward feels emotionally lightweight and lacks some of the verve and wildly imaginative flourishes we have come to expect from the California-based animation house. However, the film towers above the best efforts of many rival studios and is utterly ruthless when it comes to targeting leaky tear ducts.

Painfully shy, self-doubting teenager Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) and his older brother Barley (Chris Pratt) live in New Mushroomton with their mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) many years after ancient magic has been forgotten. The boys’ father Wilden (Kyle Bornheimer) lost his battle to serious illness before Ian was born and when Barley was just a wee elfling. “When your Dad got sick, he fought so hard because he wanted to meet you,” Laurel reassures Ian.

The boys’ emotional connection to their old man is kindled by photographs and a cassette recording of his voice. When Ian turns 16, Laurel retrieves a rope-bound bundle from the loft. Inside, the siblings discover a wizard’s staff, a glittering Phoenix Gem and instructions for an incantation to reanimate their father for one day. The spell casting goes awry and Ian and Barley have 24 precious hours to locate another Phoenix Gem to conjure the man whose love brought them into the world.

Onward balances eye-popping visuals with sincere sentiment, alternating between heart and head as Holland and Pratt bring to life their seemingly mismatched kin. Action set-pieces are orchestrated with typical aplomb – a motorcycle chase is frenetically paced and punctuated with booming belly laughs – but Scanlon’s film leaves its indelible mark with rich, nuanced characterisation. “You have to take risks in life to have an adventure,” professes Octavia Spencer’s manticore restaurant owner. Scanlon’s picture largely plays safe but still delivers a rollicking romp to delight the whole family.

– Sam Cannon

 


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