“Onward,” Pixar’s 22nd animated film, casts a powerful spell on viewers, following the story of two brothers trying to bring their dad back from the dead.
Elements of modern life have taken over the film’s whimsical Earth-like world once ruled by magic. Unicorns are depicted as racoons, hissing and feasting away in the trash, little dragons are house pets and centaurs use cars instead of running around.
All of that changes when Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) turns 16. His mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gives Ian a wizard’s staff that belonged to his father who died from an unknown sickness.
While Ian is anxious and unsure on how to use the staff, his older brother Barley (Chris Pratt), who loves magical history, is determined to bring their dad back from the dead. After the resurrection spell only brought back their dad’s legs, the brothers realize they only have 24 hours to be with their dad before he disappears for good.
The worldbuilding of “Onward” expertly intertwines the modern era with the logic of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). D&D is a board game where players create characters and use dice to decide quests for their characters. Barley describes the structure of his and Ian’s journey as similar to a D&D quest.
The music adds another terrific layer to this lively animated feature. One scene could have subtle sounds playing much like a bard playing on his lute, and in the next rock and roll could play thanks to Barley’s taste in music. At the climax of the film, Brandi Carlisle’s original song, “Carried Me With You,” emphasizes the connection Ian and Barley share throughout the film.
Since the release of “Coco” in 2017, there have been remakes of famous Disney movies such as “Beauty and the Beast” and a sequel to “Frozen.” Despite the recent remake trend, “Onward” proves Disney hasn’t lost its creative touch.
While the movie has some difficult themes to explain to a younger audience, such as parents getting sick or bringing loved ones back from the dead, “Onward” balances these with more humorous scenes. The movie also excels at emphasizing the importance of approaching difficult situations together, as Ian and Barley help each other finish their quest.
The overall message of facing one’s problems with someone cares about is shown in “Onward.” “Onward” succeeds in its message that the family one wants is the family one already has.
Disney Pixar’s “Onward,” rated PG, is now in theaters.