Onward: An Emotional And Magical Journey

When teenage elf brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot (voices of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) get an unexpected opportunity to spend one more day with their late dad, they embark on an extraordinary quest fraught with some of the most unexpected obstacles. Disney and Pixar’s “Onward” opens in U.S. theaters on March 6, 2020. © 2020 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Onward takes viewers on an emotional journey by way of the Lightfoot brothers in a world where magic has been long forgotten.

Pixar has a way of making magic.  Sometimes, this magic comes by way of a world that’s long forgotten how to use it.  In this case, Ian and Barley Lightfoot (Tom Holland and Chris Pratt)–a pair of elves–attempt to bring their father, Wilden Lightfoot (Kyle Bornheimer), back if only for a day.  Unfortunately, things turn out rather badly.  Only the bottom half of their dad comes back.  With the Phoenix Gem destroyed, Ian and Barley have no choice but to go on a quest.  A quest that first takes them to the legendary Manticore Tavern.  From there, it’s on to finding a Phoenix Gem–a key ingredient necessary in bringing their dad back.

Ian and Barley couldn’t be more different from each other.  The former is longing for confidence while the latter isn’t scared of anything.  This also makes for quite the family dynamic.  With their dad long dead, their mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), hangs out with a centaur named Officer Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez).

All in all, the film makes for quite the 16th birthday for Ian.  Here is someone who never got to meet their father.  Before he died, he left his children a gift: a mysterious spell, staff, and gem.  It’s a gift that is right up Barley’s alley because he appreciates the world’s history of magic.  Ian, on the other hand, is afraid that he’ll never be like his father.

Where Coco was about getting in touch with dead ancestors, Onward certainly takes things in a different direction.  Both films are able to connect when it comes to the theme of family.  It’s also a film that I can relate to in this regard.  Other families will likely be the same.  In my case, I never met my paternal grandfather.  These family relationships are what help to craft us into who we are.  Would I be the same person if I met him?  I don’t know but what I do know is that I would most definitely have been born with a different name.  Who wouldn’t want one more day to spend with a fallen relative?

The fantasy world in Onward is populated by elves, sprites, satyrs, cyclops, centaurs, gnomes, and trolls.  I like this step for Pixar.  They haven’t given us this type of world before.  They take this fantasy aspect and manage to humanize it by placing them in the suburbs.  Just like our world, they also use invention of electricity and growth of technology.  In this case, it also serves as somewhat of a catalyst because the world forgot how to make magic.  Even in the world of Disney Animation, it’s a genre that hasn’t quite been fully explored.

Onward shows that there’s no genre that Pixar is afraid to touch.  Dan Scanlon directs a personal film while basing it in a world with magic.  Or forgotten magic.  In either event, the emotions will be running.

DIRECTOR:  Dan Scanlon
SCREENWRITERS:  Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, and Keith Bunin
CAST:  Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer

Disney-Pixar opens Onward in theaters on March 6, 2020. Grade: 4.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.