ONWARD Review

It's difficult to say what one would do if they were granted the chance to see a lost loved one again, but only for a limited amount of time. It would arguably be even more difficult if that lost loved one was a parent and not just a parent, but a parent you'd never met before; someone who has always been a creation of your own mind via the memories of others. Of course, while some might argue the possibility of such a meeting, the actual chances of this happening are slim to none and writer/director Dan Scanlon (Monsters University) obviously knows this and that is, I suspect, one of the reasons he penned Onward in the first place. It's not necessarily wish fulfillment per se, but it is a fantasy of sorts in that Scanlon has no doubt imagined many times throughout his life who his father might have been or what it might have been like to share in a conversation with his old man. I'm probably jumping ahead there, but if you don't know already, Onward is inspired by the fact Scanlon and his older brother lost their father when Scanlon was one and his brother, Bill, was three. In Onward, Scanlon has taken the idea of this fantasy about meeting his father and literally placed it into a world of fantasy where we meet elves Ian (voice of Tom Holland) and Barley (voice of Chris Pratt) who, on Ian's 16th birthday, are afforded the opportunity to spend the day with their father. Scanlon constructs a fantasy world that has long passed its expiration date on the "magic" and "fun" that one would inherently believe comes along in a world filled with fantastical things as pixies no longer fly, centaurs no longer run, and the once mighty Manticore (voice of Octavia Spencer) has been reduced to parodying herself in what is essentially a mythical-themed Applebee's. It is in this fantasy-less fantasy land that there seemingly resides some kind of metaphor about failing to see the magic all around you due to focusing on what's been lost, but Scanlon and co-writers Jason Headley and Keith Bunin don't so much hammer home the symbolic nature of Ian and Barley's world, but instead choose to let the natural emotions of Scanlon's cathartic exercise breathe via the character development and creativity channeled through the heartwarming story. Does Onward reach the emotional heights of Up or Inside Out? Maybe not. Does it surpass the creativity enlisted in Toy Story or Coco? Not necessarily. What Onward does do though is serve as this largely ambitious endeavor that's presented through the guise of this quaint, familiar package. It's a familiarity that, even in a film with genuinely heavy moments and poignant themes, resonates comfort and charm. Like any good product of the Pixar brand, it will have you beaming through the tears.


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