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ONWARD (2020) – My rating: 8/10

Onward is a computer-animated urban fantasy adventure produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film is directed by Dan Scanlon, produced by Kori Rae, and written by Scanlon, Jason Headley, and Keith Bunin. Set in a suburban fantasy world, the film follows two elf brothers who set out on a quest to find an artifact that will temporarily bring their dead father back alive for 24 hours. Onward is an exciting children’s flick that offers a pretty solid message.

In a world inhabited by mythic creatures, magic was commonplace several millennia ago, though difficult to master. Because of technological advances over the centuries, magic became obsolete and was largely discarded. In the modern-day, two elf brothers, Ian (Tom Highland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) live in New Mushroomton. The younger brother, Ian, is a high-school student struggling with self-confidence, and the older brother, Barley, is an enthusiastic yet impulsive role-playing gamer and historical fanatic. Their father, Wilden (Kyle Bornheimer), took ill and passed on shortly before Ian was born. Their mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has a new boyfriend, centaur police officer Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez), whom Ian and Barley dislike.

On Ian’s sixteenth birthday, Laurel gives her sons a gift from Wilden, a magical staff, a rare Phoenix gem, and a letter describing a “visitation spell” that can resurrect their father for a single day. Ian succeeds in casting the spell but has significant trouble finishing it when Barley intervenes, forcefully offering his help. As a result, only the lower half of Wilden’s body is reformed before the gem disintegrates. The brothers embark on a quest to acquire another gem and complete the spell, taking Barley’s beloved van “Guinevere.” Finding the boys gone, Laurel leaves to look for them.

Ian and Barley visit the Manticore’s Tavern, in the hopes of finding a map to the gem stored inside. However, the tavern has become a family restaurant managed by the Manticore “Corey” (Octavia Spencer). While arguing with Ian over the map, Corey realizes how unfulfilling her life has become and drives the customers away in a fit of insanity, accidentally setting fire to the restaurant and the map. The brothers’ only clue to the Phoenix gem is a children’s menu suggesting “Raven’s Point,” a nearby mountain. Laurel later arrives at the scene and befriends Corey, who agrees to help her track both Ian and Barley down. Corey warns Laurel that the brothers’ journey may awaken a curse that can only be defeated by her sword, which is currently held at a pawn shop. After incapacitating the shop clerk, Grecklin (Tracey Ullman), and stealing the sword, they end up in a car accident that forces Corey to regain the use of her wings in order to catch up with the boys.

As you can see, Onward is a real fantasy in every sense of the word.  The mere fact that anyone is trying to bring someone back from the dead using a magic gem is fantasy at its best.  Pixies, a flying manticore, spells, the bottom half of a person walking around, an officer that’s half man/half colt, and a magic gem is what make this fantasy fun.  Onward is adventurous, exciting, and fun with a great message on acceptance.  The journey is a little long but it keeps you focused on the ultimate goal.  I think Onward is worth the watch. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 88% based on 332 reviews, with an average rating of 7.20/10. The website’s critic’s consensus reads, “It may suffer in comparison to Pixar’s classics, but Onward makes effective use of the studio’s formula – and stands on its own merits as a funny, heartwarming, dazzlingly animated adventure.” Onward is streaming on Disney+ — Check It Out!

[ONWARD is Oscar-nominated at the 93rd Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film — Totaling 1 Nomination]