July 22, 2024

ONWARD (2020) – Brotherly love amidst adventure in a fantasy world

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

EPIC QUEST -- In Disney and Pixar’s “Onward,” brothers Ian and Barley embark on an epic quest in search of a rare Phoenix Gem in an effort to fully conjure their late dad for one magical day. Featuring the voices of Tom Holland and  Chris Pratt as Ian and Barley, “Onward” opens in U.S. theaters on March 6, 2020. © 2020 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Pixar’s latest offering Onward is a delightful magical tale of adventure and family bonding that will not only entertain you with its wit and imagination, but also touch you with its story of family love. Pixar has always managed to come up with original tales that not only appeal to the young but also the adults, and Onward is no exception to this high standard that they have built. Here is what draws the difference between a Disney animation from a Pixar animation. Disney’s animation are often based on familiar fairy tales or a variation of it. Additionally they often end up with an appeal that leans towards the younger audience, alienating the adults. This was the case with the recent Frozen II which I personally thought was geared more to younger viewers and had little for the adults to truly immerse themselves into.

The story on Onward, is set in a parallel fantasy world that is inhabited by elves, unicorns, wizards, centeurs and other magical creatures, but the characters are familiar as they behave, speak and have emotions like us, so there is no problem relating to the characters’ motivations. It attempts to show how technological progress has replaced the magic in their lives. Hence the underlying theme for the movie is for its characters to rediscover the magic that has been missing in their lives. One can identify with this to our own world today where much of society is too immersed with their handphones and computers to notice what’s around them, or to fully realise their capabilities. The humour is infectious as the adventure moves along with creative twists and turns that reminds me of the golden age of adventure movies by Spielberg and Lucas back in the 1980’s. Like many Pixar movies before this, the story manages to infuse not only humour but also sentimentalism in its plot which would touch the hearts. Imagine tearing up in an animated movies populated by elves and other mythical creatures!! Even the film’s title is a clever subtle reference to the gear of the broken down van that our main characters ride on, Onward being the term used for gear level to move the van forward!

The voice acting throughout the show was superb and matched perfectly with the flawless animation. In particular, I really liked the two young characters’ voices as  provided by Tom Holland (Spiderman) and Chris Pratt, and can almost imagine these actors acting instead of the animated image on the screen. This to me is an indirect measure of how well fitted the voices are to the animated characters. The supporting cast were also great particularly unknown, Julia Louis Dreyfus as the mother. She reminded me of Kathy Bates and I could almost imagine Kathy Bates’ face each time she appeared!

At the end of the day we should recognise the key creativity of Onward. Onward is very much the brainchild of Writer and Director, Dan Scanton. Dan demonstrate great potential here as this is only his second directorial effort after Monsters University. Hopefully we can expect great things to come from him in future Pixar projects.

I really enjoyed Onward and I suspect many of you will probably too. Don’t let the fact that its an animation (some may say cartoon) put you off and let that intimidate you into thinking it is beyond an adult to watch a kiddie movie. Far from it. I think you will probably enjoy this more than you can imagine. And God knows we all need a break and a story of positivity plus smile in these tiring times of the pandemic that is upon us all.

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