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‘Onward’ a well-told, magical adventure story


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“Onward,” Pixar’s latest movie, is a bit like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign brought to the movie screen.

It’s set in a land full of fantastic characters, its two main characters go on a peril-filled quest and magic plays a significant role in the story. But unlike your usual D&D campaign, which fills you with rage as the Dungeon Master kills off your character, “Onward” plays on your emotions and leaves you with a huge smile on your face.

This movie tells the story of Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland), a young elf who’s scared of everything, from trying to make friends to learning to drive. As his sixteenth birthday present, his mom gives him a magical staff and a spell that can bring back his deceased father for one day. Unfortunately, a mishap while working the spell only brings back the lower half of his dad’s body.

With the clock ticking, Ian and his fantasy RPG-obsessed brother, Barley (Chris Pratt), set out on a quest to find a gem that can make their dad home. Meanwhile, Ian’s mom (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Cory the manticore (Octavia Spencer) give chase, hoping to save Ian and Barley from a terrible curse.

“Onward” is full of emotional scenes, where Ian and Barley pine for their father’s presence in their lives. That means there’s the potential for this movie to get overwhelmed by heavy feelings.

Luckily, the movie has a good amount of humor to even the tone out. The laughs come from everything from clever visual gags and references to witty dialogue and humorous physical antics. This kind of humor is the standard for Pixar flicks and it doesn’t quite balance out the weighty emotional stuff, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

Another thing that really buoys “Onward” is the voice work from Pratt and Holland. Pratt, in particular, knocks it out of the park, creating a goofy, affable character who turns out to be the engine that drives the whole story. The scenes that Pratt and Holland share are bursting with the kind of love and frustration that only exists between brothers. There are other standout performances, like Louis-Dreyfus and Mel Rodriguez as centaur police officer Colt Bronco, but Pratt and Holland are really the wings on which “Onward” soars.

Visually, “Onward” is definitely beautiful to look at, with a few images that will be burned into my brain for a long time. Fantastic landscapes and a super-cool monster with a humorous twist that our heroes face in the end are a few of the highlights. Also, this flick gets props for a beautiful, emotional score and turning a beat-up old van into one of its most important characters.

“Onward” loses a few points for too closely adhering to the Pixar movie formula, which makes it feel too much like product pieced together from bits of other Pixar hits, rather than an experience all its own. That and that aforementioned slight imbalance between fun and weighty emotional issues keep “Onward” from being top-tier Pixar. But it’s still an overall wonderful adventure that has enough magic to cast a spell over the whole family.

3 ½ Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG

Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on