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April 6, 2020

Onward (2020) --- “There Is A Magic Hidden Inside Each Of Us.”

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     Directed by Dan Scanlon (Monsters University) and written by Scanlon, Jason Headley (A Bad Idea Gone Wrong), and Keith Bunin (Horns), Onward (2020) is an animated modern-day fantasy film by Pixar Animation Studios for Walt Disney Pictures. Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers, Barley (Chris Pratt) and Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) are given their father’s (Kyle Bornheimer) wizard staff and a spell that will bring him back for one whole day. But when the spell goes awry and they only have the bottom half of their father, Barley and Ian set out on a quest to find a rare magical stone that will grant them the power they need to finish the spell to see their dad before time runs out.
     Pixar has been coming out with a lot of films and while Onward may not be Pixar’s best and most memorable film, it does have heart and an emotionally filled story that springs from a deeply personal place and is almost borderline heartbreaking: the possibility of being able to spend one more day with a parent who has passed away. Director Scanlon was inspired by the death of his own father when he was just a year old, while his older brother only had hazy memories. Through his loss, director Scanlon and his co-writers Headley and Bunin create a high-energy fantasy world filled with unicorns, mermaids, elves, centaurs, and more but due to technological advancements making life easier, magic and fantasy have been supplanted by the mundane and suburban. The film features an odd mixture of old and modern styles, like making houses in the shape of oversized mushrooms and using baby dragons to serve as perky and slobbery pets. It’s a colorful and beautiful animation that uses an episodic structure to go from place to place in a sort of breathless fetch-type quest but inserts a few moments where the pace slows down and allows for the characters to interact with each other in a meaningful way.
     The voice performances were great. Tom Holland (Spies in Disguise, Spider-Man: Far From Home) is spectacular as the shy, awkward, and unsure teenager Ian Lightfoot, while Chris Pratt (Avengers: Endgame) is outstanding as Ian loud, boisterous, and overly optimistic older brother, Barley Lightfoot. Together, Holland and Pratt share a heartwarming and effortless camaraderie that helps them carry the story. I have never really been a fan of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Downhill) but here her voice is almost unrecognizable and she does a pretty good job as Ian and Barley’s mom, Laurel Lightfoot. Octavia Spencer (Ma!) is excellent and really gets into her role as Corey the fearsome and ‘vicious’ The Manticore. Louis-Dreyfus and Spencer are a charming comedic duo and help balance each other's character out.  The supporting cast, including Mel Rodriguez (Running Wilde, Community) as Laurel’s boyfriend Officer Colt Bronco, is good. 
     Overall, Onward (2020) is an entertaining, delightful, and magical road trip about two brothers finding common ground with each other. The story is funny, emotional, engrossing, and filled with endearing themes about family and second chances that will capture the attention of both kids and adults. The cast performances were fitting, funny, and they all had great chemistry together. I highly recommend this film for both kids and adults.

Final Vote --- 7.5 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar
Brave (2012)
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Dolittle (2020)
Frozen (2013)
Frozen II (2019)
The Incredibles (2004)
The Incredibles 2 (2018)
Moana (2016)
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
Toy Story (1995)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Toy Story 4 (2019)
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Wreck-It Ralph: Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

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