Not all fantasy and animation films fall within the realm of mere fun and adventure. Some have elements of tenderness and sympathy woven into the script. Add a dash of oblique brotherly love, and ‘Onward’, directed and co-written by Dan Scanlon, is one such film.
Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) is an introverted teenager whose father died while he was still a toddler. His elder brother, Barley (Chris Pratt), is the opposite – garrulous and extroverted. On Ian’s 16th birthday, his mother, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), presents him with a wizard’s staff, which, if summoned with the powers of the Phoenix Stone, would bring his father alive for 24 hours. Unfortunately, a mishap occurs which results in only the bottom half of the father and a glow in place of the top half appearing.
The rest of the 100-minute film is invested in a series of mistimed escapades by the pointed-ears elf brothers, involving, among others, Bronco (Mel Rodriguez) – a centaur-shaped police officer and a manticore (Octavia Spencer). ‘Long ago, the world was full of wonder and magic’, we are informed in the beginning. We are then transported to the town of New Mushroomston, which is inhabited by unicorns, centaurs, pixies and elves.
The film would have worked better had the writers devoted more screen time and space to other characters such as Spencer’s manticore. Also, the idea of fairies flying mobikes was a bit farfetched. On the whole, it isn’t one of Pixar Films’ (now owned by Disney) best attempts, although, the animation is quite good.