While it isn't as emotionally involving as some other Pixar films, there is sufficient artistry and joyful storytelling here
Shrek meets Harry Potter in Pixar’s latest animated adventure that hangs on the hook of family, relationships and coming of age. Set in a modern day fantasy-land called New Mushroomton, an urban town that looks a little like the Shire from Lord of the Rings, populated with elves, trolls, Cyclops, Manticores, centaurs and other mythical creatures. Over time, with the advent of technology, magic has faded away from New Mushroomton.
Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland), an under-confident teenage elf, is celebrating his 16th birthday. The house is chaotic as usual with his mother Laurel (voice of Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), older brother Barley (voice of Chris Pratt) and their pet dragon Blazey hurtling around.
Ian and Barley receive a special gift left to them by their long deceased father. It’s a magic spell that brings him back to life for just one day. But the magic is only partially realised. So, in order to complete the spell, the brothers embark on a quest to find a magical stone.
Fighting against the clock, Ian and Barley set off on an adventure that reveals that magic was never far from their lives after all. Holland and Pratt are on point in their voice parts as the brothers who find their emotional compass was never very far away after all.
Director Dan Scanlon inventively dives into an emotional and slightly crazy story about faith, self-belief and family. The metaphors are simple, such as traversing an invisible bridge, and the design of a half reconstituted and half scarecrow daddy is fodder for many gags. Greater emphasis is placed on mythical creatures and magic spells than on the poignancy of the premature death of a parent.
Less emotionally involving than previous Pixar films such as Coco, which explored similar themes, or Toy Story, which celebrates childhood and belonging, Onward says a little magic can go a long way. And it does so with animation artistry and joyful storytelling.