Expecting greatness from a Pixar movie is the usual mood heading in to watch a new release from the animation studio powerhouse, and Onward also happens to be tasked with comforting kids and adults alike in the age of coronavirus. Thankfully, Onward is a charming tale set to tug on the emotional chords of everyone stuck at home.
Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) are two Elf brothers dealing with their dysfunctional relationship. Ian is the shy misfit brother searching for his place in the world, still grieving for his dead father he never got to bond with.
Barley, on the surface at least, is the polar opposite to Ian - his loud and boisterous behaviour derails Ian's calm exterior at every turn. With a twist of magic, the boys are brought together with a common goal of getting Ian to master his newfound magic ability to bring the remaining half of their father back for one day.
The movie deals with grief and other heavy topics in a similar fashion to other Pixar films like Inside Out. Where Onward shines is with its execution of processing the complex themes with a backdrop of quick-fire humour. The ridiculous idea of a spell bringing back the bottom half of the Lightfoot boys' father could be the hilarity box ticked, but it's the one-liners and the Dungeons and Dragons references that make it memorable. There's also a motorcycle gang of pixies, a police officer centaur police officer, and an Octavia Spencer-voiced Manticore.
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The strength of Onward, and what moved me so much, was how it balances both themes - not sacrificing its message for the jokes. Instead, it expertly displays an equal brilliance of humour and emotional impact.
Cast: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer
Director: Dan Scanlon
Running time: 103 minutes
Streaming: Disney+ from tomorrow
Verdict: Pixar's latest is a hilarious adventure with an emotional gut-punch.