After skilfully depicting the afterlife in Coco and the monster world behind our closet doors in Monsters Inc, the animation whizzes at Pixar’s animation studios now show us a world of elves, unicorns and centaurs in the adorable family movie Onward.
While these magical creatures all live in the town of New Mushroontown, there’s little actual magic left following the advancement of technology. After all, who needs a wizard to create light when you have electricity and light bulbs? And why should a centaur gallop like the wind when he can drive a car?
Yes, magic has been all but forgotten – even the wondrous unicorns are now grubby, growling rubbish-bin scavengers – until the day that elf brothers Ian (Holland) and Barley (Pratt) are given their late father’s wizard staff and the crystal that powers it.
Hoping to resurrect their dad – whom Barley remembers but Ian does not – the boys attempt a spell that would bring him back for just one day but it doesn’t go as planned. Their only hope is to embark on an adventure, following the quest in Barley’s beloved Dungeons And Dragons-style game that he insists is based on fact, that could finish the spell and save their dad.
One of PIxar’s funniest films in ages, this is part buddy comedy and part adventure movie as the brothers set off in Barley’s beaten-up van (that he adores and has named Guinevere), meeting the legendarily ferocious winged beast The Manticore (Spencer) along the way (she’s now the manager of a family theme restaurant).
It’s also a movie about family – not just about fathers and sons, and mothers and their children (Barley and Ian’s mum, voiced by Dreyfus, has her own adventures tracking her boys down), but also about siblings and their rivalry and love. There are more than a few scenes that will tug at grown-ups heart-strings – including a lovely dancing moment that manages to be hilarious and poignant at the same time – and some that will provoke younger viewers to choke up too (especially the loss of one beloved character).
Well-earned sniffles aside, Onward is a joy, with the fantasy world that has almost forgotten magic perfectly realised, and the central story more enjoyable, well-paced and fun than recent PIxar movies like Toy Story 4 and The Incredibles 2.
Adults and kids alike will love the humour, adventure and charm of this magical world that is well worth a visit.
Is Onward suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is suitable for most children, though very young (under 5s) and sensitive children may find the Manticore a little scary to begin with.
They may also be frightened by a dragon that appears near the end of the movie.
Barley and Ian do go on an Indiana Jones-style quest but the danger never feels very intense.
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