“Onward” and upward

In a time where people find themselves in dire need of entertainment, a slight signal of normalcy in their lives, Pixar’s return to the cinema for the first time since the critically acclaimed Toy Story 4 is a triumphant hero’s return in every way. Manned by the intricately creative mind of Dan Scanlon,
“Onward”excels in executing a beautifully comedic, but, perhaps most importantly, heartfelt and emotional film that exemplifies the value of love and family.
Armed with a star studded cast, the likes of rising star Tom Holland in the leading role of Ian, Chris Pratt in the co-leading role of the lovable Barley, Julia Louis Dreyfus as their attentive and caring mother, and Octavia Spencer as the comedic Manticore, Scanlon is tasked with delivering a film unlike
any seen in previous Pixar, a task eased by the voicing performance of the aforementioned stars.
Building on the premise that Ian and Barley’s world is one which finds itself to be almost the same as present day’s-with the exception of the existence of fantastic, magic creatures and elements that ultimately serve
as the driving force behind the progression of the film’s plot. Such magical elements and creatures that so often capture the interest of the public is evidenced by the film’s opening montage, where Scanlon
incorporates a n appropriate amount of exposition to depict how the film’s world “used to be”; a fantastical world littered with dragons, fairies, beasts-but has evolved to the point where an elf, Ian, is celebrating 16 years of age in the opening minutes alongside his stay at home elf mother (who takes
online dancing classes, nonetheless), his centaur policeman who happens to be his stepfather, and of course his lovable yet troublesome and at times seemingly delusional brother Barley-all whilst attending a “high school” and worrying about passing a “driving” test.
Perhaps what captures the attention and ultimately the respect of audiences, aside from the interesting premise of pitting these fairy tale inspired creatures in a world that very much resembles our own, is Scanlon’s brilliant showcase of the film’s heart. Without diving too much into spoilers, this film
excels when it invests time into its core: the relationship between brothers Ian and Barley. As one would imagine with real life situations, Ian, a reserved , shy, bright, yet paranoid individual does not hold his brother Barley, who is seemingly past his teenage years and taking a “gap year” at home investing his
time on Dungeons and Dragons-like card games and driving his memorable but trust van, in the highest of regards.
But as a series of events unfold and the characters find themselves with the opportunity to finally meet their long deceased elf father (who Ian never met), they embark on a quest very reminiscent of the old school fairy tales, but the film differentiates itself when it focuses on the development of both
character’s progressions as they come to terms with love, their father, and each other’s lives. Yes, the movie includes perhaps at times generic plot elements fitting for a children’s movie and a movie based on
a fantastical world, but Scanlon rarely loses sight of emphasizing the values of family, the feelings of belonging, whilst addressing serious issues such as abandonment, loneliness, teenage angst, and the death
of a loved one.
Infused by its colorful and beautiful animation, Holland and Pratt do not fail to inject a sense of wittiness and humor, but also emotion and heart into each of their characters; one who is searching for his purpose, while the other searching for his seeming salvation, his father.
Editing the film in a way that makes the audience feel as though they are a part of this colorful yet grounded world not so distant from ours, the movie succeeds in taking the audience by the hand and showcasing the film’s world in what is ultimately a very heartfelt way. Whether or not this was Pixar’s best film is a debate of another matter. I believe this film succeeded where it embarked on the first place-differentiating itself from the rest of the Pixar movies in a
way that stayed tonally consistent with the usual heartfelt and emotionally satisfying Pixar mood. Scanlon delivers a personal film where the titular characters’ needs and wants are understood in a way that makes
the audience appreciate its humanity and most importantly, its heart.
See this movie. Purchase Disney + or borrow a friend’s, whatever you have to do. We live in a time where uncertainty and fear reign supreme, so why not escape for at least two hours to a world reminiscent of the likes of the Grimm Brothers, yet a world that seems to understand its humanity in a
beautifully mature manner? Scanlon, for however unknown he may have been, truly delivered in providing a captivating escape from reality and into one that we may just identify with more than we may
Cinema is entertainment, but authentic cinema delves into the situations we may often find ourselves living in. And for all intents and purposes, this film portrays such certain situations of the values of family in true Pixar style-a home run style.
5 out of 5.