The Quest for Family Connection Drives Disney Pixar's Latest Film Onward

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Tom Holland and Chris Pratt lead this charming Disney Pixar road-trip / buddy movie in a literal quest for magic.

ONWARD presents a world that was initially sword-and-sorcery, and allows it to evolve into one of modern convenience while retaining its culture and creatures. Unicorns are nusance animals, small dragons are kept as pets, and the ways of magic have been long forgotten for smart phones.

Ian (Holland) and Barley (Pratt) are elf brothers, raised by their single mom, Lauren (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). They also happen to be elves who live in a mushroom-capped house. It's Ian's sixteenth birthday, and he's determined to make something of himself this day and rise above the terminal shyness and fear that has been holding him back. Big brother Barley is on board with this plan, but has other ideas in mind of how to do it, involving ancient rites of manhood, the way things were done in the olden days. Barley is big on history, having learned it from the books and cards that make up a role-playing game that looks suspiciously like Dungeons & Dragons. After Ian's day at school goes miserably wrong, his mom gives him a present that's been wrapped up by the boys' father, with instructions to give it to them when they are both over 16. The present is a wizard's staff, and it comes witn an incantation and a Phoenix Stone. The incantation will bring their father back to life for one more day so that he can see his boys. Ian, who was an infant when his father passed, has no memories of the man, and a long list of the things he would like to do with him if given the opportunity.

Barley is eager to try out the incantation, but fails to make the magic work. However, when Ian tries it alone, the staff glows, and the gemstone begins to crumble, restoring their father...


All the boys get is their father from the waist down. They can try the incantation again to get it right, but they need another stone -- and that is where the quest begins. With Ian's innate but untrained talent and Barley's copious knowledge of the game, these two set off to find a new stone to finish the spell before it's 24-hour deadline elapses and their father is gone forever.

Starring the voices of Octavia Spencer as The Manticore and Mel Rodriguez as Officer Colt Bronco, ONWARD is a thoughtful and heartwarming epic in a setting that blends fantasy with familiar. Bonds are forged, sacrifices are made, and a dozen pixie bikers are dangerously angered, as the boys' quest brings magic back into their lives, and the lives of those around them.

This film also opens with a cartoon short episode of THE SIMPSONS. The episode is done without dialogue, and is a sendup of the old "boy meets girl, boy loses girl" trope, as Maggie meets a new playmate at a park and then seeks to reunite with him.

ONWARD is magical fun for the whole family. The children we were with expressed they could not wait for the Blu-ray release, and then went to McDonald's where they cleaned up a set of ONWARD toys in their Happy Meals. Sounds like a hit movie to me.