Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
In the Steven Spielberg-esque town of New Mushroomton that is inhabited by elves, feral unicorns, dragons and centaurs, we meet Ian. He’s an elf and so socially awkward that he can’t invite his fellow classmates to a house party to celebrate his 16th birthday. However, he will celebrate it with his loving older brother, Barley, who is obsessed with fantasy role-playing games much like Dungeons and Dragons, and his Mom, though he still yearns to spend time with his Dad who he lost at a very young age. Mom brings out a present that Dad left behind: a wizard staff, as well as a spell that will enable him to return to life, giving the boys the chance to spend one more day with their old man. But as Ian is reciting the spell to regenerate their father, something goes wrong, leaving the brothers looking at a pair of legs, and nothing up top. The only thing that can bring the rest of their father back is a magical stone and recasting the spell before time runs out. And, as in all quest movies, the boys only have 24 hours to do so.
ONWARD is the first non-sequel Animated Feature from Pixar in some time and it is magically enthralling. I liken the movies from Pixar to the same standards I do as when I am about to see Tom Hanks in a film; both have set a benchmark and definition of excellence and both very rarely disappoint. The visuals in this Movie are superlative, down to the minutest detail. Those alone warrant seeing ONWARD numerous times. I loved how they have modernized a fantasy world that evokes memories of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and made it believable and true. And the humour throughout is inspiring. We have a centaur police officer who rather be uncomfortable in his cruiser and drive rather than use his horse legs. There’s a motorcycle gang of fairies that prefer to ride their choppers than use their wings. To replace the gem of the staff to bring their Dad back, Ian and Barley travel in Barley’s van (named Guinevere) to get a map of its location from The Manticore, a mythical ferocious lion who now runs a chain restaurant. The journey to find the gem in 24 hours is filled with encounters and adventures that are both very funny and exciting.
The talented voices beneath the animation is superb. As Ian, Tom Holland’s Spidey senses are fully realized and he captures all of the teenager’s angst and concerns with panache. Chris Pratt takes the slacker role of Barley and infuses it with a perfect combination of love, wisdom and dumbness! Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Mom is letter perfect and Octavia Spencer as The Manticore dominates every scene with power. Throw in Tracey Ullman as the owner of a pawn shop and ONWARD is a victory. When you add all these components to the message this Movie so heartfully conveys of love and family bonding, ONWARDS is triumphant. And, if you have any sentimental bones in your body, bring tissues. Whereas I have been moved way too many times in the past by animated motion pictures, ONWARD is the first one where tears actually streamed down my cheeks.
ONWARD is the first letter-perfect movie of 2020. It is NOT to be missed.
Walt Disney Studios Canada release ONWARD Friday, March 6, 2020.