The Middle Earth-turned-modern world was a nice idea, but one that clearly tries to emphasize the importance fantasy has for people when dealing with real world problems.
We all find a way to escape our real world, often allowing many to create a sandbox in which to play and work things out in our own individual way. Just like how Toy Story asked us, "What if toys could talk?," Onward asks, "What if fantasy was the real world?" How would one go about dealing with a problem?
Onward has a sad, but interesting premise. Two brothers have a chance to spend 24 hours with their dad, who has passed away. What makes this touching is how the older brother got to spend the first 2 years of his life with him, while the younger brother never once got the chance to meet him at all. One day they are both given a staff that allows them to bring him back once for 24 hours.
Unfortunately, the magic spell is interrupted halfway through, and now they only have the bottom half of their dad. In order to bring him back fully, the two must go on a mystical quest in a world where magic must be found through trials as one would on a fantasy quest. I won’t go into detail, but I am here to share my experience with Onward.
Onward serves as a fantasy road trip film with elements clearly borrowed from Weekend at Bernie’s. The two brothers share a bond often found in brothers that I personally can relate to. Although they don’t hate one another, there is a clear divide between them that comes from the two growing up with different mindsets. It's a beautiful story of discovering who you are, who your parents were, and most importantly, who you have in your life.
The true highlight of Onward comes from the two brothers sharing their quest together. It is filled with moments that I found myself laughing at and enjoying. Onward does have its slow moments, but they do not take away from the focus of the story.
As a family film, Onward has heart and a charm that I found enjoyable to experience. As a Pixar project, its good in the same ways as Inside Out. That means it is a relatively fair and charming movie, but not one that reaches the heights of early Pixar entries.
Nevertheless, I found myself crying from the sense that I’ve seen a movie that touches on something brothers often go through. Onward has a beautiful message with strong character development between the two brothers. Zootopia had a more immersive world around its characters, though. However, Onward’s "middle earth" often feels just like a beautiful and fun set piece.
Onward is rated PG for action / peril and some mild thematic elements. Dan Scanlon (Monsters University) directed the movie. It stars the voice talents of Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. (Review by Alan Ramirez)