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article imageReview: ‘Onward’ is infused with magic and emotion Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 6, 2020 in Entertainment
‘Onward’ is a coming-of-age animation about a teenage boy who believes meeting his father will make him a better person, but discovers that person already exists.
Growing up, there’s a subconscious pressure to have a mom AND a dad. Yet, in spite of what most sitcoms tell you, the majority of households don’t consist of that dynamic. Some parents separate or suffer untimely deaths, while others may be same-sex. There’s no “traditional family” anymore as families come in all shapes and sizes. But that doesn’t mean a kid won’t still feel the stress of not having a mom and dad at home, creating a longing that may be impossible to fulfill. In Onward, a teen wants nothing more than to spend a day with the father he never met.
It’s Ian Lightfoot’s (Tom Holland) 16th birthday and he’s decided today will be the day he’ll come out of his shell more. But that’s easier said than done — especially with a myth-obsessed older brother like Barley (Chris Pratt) to embarrass him in front of his would-be friends. But all is not lost. At home, his mom (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) retrieves a gift left by his father to be opened by the boys when they were both old enough. It’s a magic wand with a spell that will bring their dad back for one day. Unfortunately, the mystic gem only brings the lower half of him back. So Ian and Barley embark on a quest to find a second phoenix stone so they can resurrect the rest of their father’s body before the spell expires.
Ian and Barley couldn’t be more different. As their mother describes them, Ian is afraid of everything and Barley isn’t scared of anything. Ian is slim and shy, while Barley is robust and rowdy, making Holland and Pratt the perfect casting choices. Of course, they do share a dislike for their mom’s boyfriend, Officer Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez). Their dad was taken by an incurable illness before Ian could form any memories of him and Barley only has a handful. But Ian longs for his father, holding onto whatever remains of him — photos, an old cassette recording, and even other people’s memories of him — in hopes his dad can somehow make his life less difficult. The chance to finally meet him, even fleetingly, means the world to Ian. So Barley uses his extensive knowledge of magical history — gained via a Dungeons and Dragons-style game — to lead their journey to the phoenix stone in his ‘70s style van, a.k.a. steed, named Guinevere.
Coming from a world in which magic used to exist, all the creatures have adapted to the comforts of the modern world… consequently forgetting how to use their inherent abilities. Why gallop when you can drive, fly when you can ride or strike fear in the hearts of men when you can pacify them with food? Barley’s steadfast belief in the old ways and Ian’s ability to wield the magic staff are an awakening for all the magical creatures in New Mushroomton. More importantly, their quest stirs Ian’s nerve as he’s willing to do almost anything to ensure their precious reunion occurs.
There is plenty of action in the picture as the boys go on a D&D-inspired adventure, encountering monsters, booby-traps, puzzles, tests… and the legendary gelatinous cube. But the heart of the story is about two brothers bonding in a beat-up old van as they work together and trust each other to achieve their goal. The equally heartwarming subplot features a mother on her own quest to keep her sons safe by any means necessary, which includes some death-defying feats of her own with the help of The Manticore (Octavia Spencer).
This is an incredibly sweet — and occasionally bittersweet — tale about family and love that will move and entertain audiences of all ages.
Director: Dan Scanlon
Starring: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt and Julia Louis-Dreyfus
More about onward, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, julia louis dreyfus, octavia spencer
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