Like Kerry Katona trying to do suduku, Pixar don’t make it easy for themselves. ‘Inside Out’ saw teenage emotion personified as characters, Coco saw a young boy entering the Mexican Land of the Dead to find his great great grandfather and later this year we have ‘Soul’ about a musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself.But before we get to ‘Soul’ we have Onward that tackles the pining for deceased loved ones something which just about everyone who has lost family or friends can all too readily identify.
Here it’s Ian Lightfoot, an elf, living in a suburban fantasy world with his brother Barley and widowed mother Laurel and desperately missing his father who died when Ian was just a toddler. From the start Onward makes it clear that magic has long faded – feral unicorns eat from trash cans, pawn shops sell mythical items on the cheap and sprites no longer fly but have their own chapter of Hell’s Angels. With Ian missing the father he never really knew he finds an unlikely opportunity comes when his mother gives him a gift that his late father wanted him to have. Looking like something out of a Christmas cracker the gift actually turns out to be a Phoenix stone which his Dungeons & Dragons obsessed brother recognises as having the power to bring someone back to life but only for 24 hours.
With the stone lodged in the end of a magical staff Barley attempts to raise their father without success and it’s Ian who releases his inner wizard bringing his much missed father back to life…….sort of. What he actually does is brings his father legs back to life. With their Phoenix stone disintegrating in the process they go on a quest to find another stone before the 24 hours is up to bring back the top half of their father and finally spend some precious moments with Dad before the sun forever goes down on him.
So this is a bit of a road movie with various adventures along the way in the brother’s bid to be reunited with their late father and for anyone having lost someone loved there is some heart breaking scenes here none more so than a moving end which is sure to bring a tear to the eyes , more so of parents than perhaps their children. It’s something that Pixar do so brilliantly in the best of their films tapping into the most human of emotions that if it doesn’t make you even slightly weepy then you’re not human without even the acting range of a celebrity tweeting, ‘thoughts and prayers’ after a tragedy.
Directed and co-written by Dan Scanlon this is only his second film that he’s helmed for Pixar after 2013’s ‘Monsters University’ and outside of the bigger themes he’s also dropped in a slyly subversive line that that reveals a female cop as being lesbian. Onward has some entertaining supporting roles notably a gang of biker sprites, a centaur stepfather and all too briefly a great pawn shop owner voiced by Tracey Ullman which we wished could have been longer. Ian is voiced by Tom Holland rapidly becoming in danger of being known for his voiceovers than anything else at the moment having also provided voices only for his last two films, Dolittle & Spies in Disguise. Chris Pratt, no stranger himself to voiceovers with The Lego Movies, plays the brother Barley with a touch of Jack Black about the character and of course Pixar favourite John Ratzenberger lends his voice too. Onward is not going to topple the great Pixar films from their throne but nonetheless even their lesser films are extremely good.
Here’s the Onward trailer…….