When you look at the Pixar film catalog, there is no shortage of stories to choose from. In one way or another, they all focus on positive relationships, learning lessons, and positive emotional-social learning. These are all things children should learn, and things adults should be regularly reminded of. Onward lives up to the Pixar name and is sure to be a favorite for many.
Onward is the story Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) who, on his sixteenth birthday, does some deep soul-searching. He wants to be more like his father, who died before he was born. After a chance encounter with a stranger who knew Ian’s father in college, Ian decides that to be like his father, he has to be bolder in life, so that is what he tries to do on his birthday.
Ian’s brother, Barley (Chris Pratt), is just a few years older and was young when their father died. He only has a few memories of him, and it is clear that he misses him. But Barley could not be any more different than Ian. Their interests and personalities diverge in many ways, and Ian, at the end of the day, is slightly embarrassed by Barley.
The night of Ian’s birthday, however, the brothers learn that their father has left a gift for them. The gift is a magical staff, with a stone, meant to bring him back for one day. Magic is a thing of the past if it is to be believed at all, but Ian somehow manages to find it within himself to do what his father wanted — almost. Only half of their returns, the bottom half, and the brothers scramble to fix the mistake as the clock ticks. What ensues is an epic family adventure for all audiences to enjoy.
Onward, as with many of Pixar’s stories, is about family. This film features two boys and their mother, whose father and husband have passed, and his memory is still strongly felt. The boys have a new stepfather who is trying is best, but he is a little awkward to be around. As the brothers experience their adventure, they learn new things about each other, Ian in particular, and this helps to shape the direction the story goes in.
Also noteworthy is that, for the first time, Disney has created a visibly LGBTQ+ animated character, who references her girlfriend. This character is voiced by Lena Waithe.
Tom Holland and Chris Pratt play well and their voiceover performances complement each other. Julia Louis-Dreyfus voices Laurel Lightfoot, the mother of the main characters, and plays a more significant role in the story than initially anticipated. As the boys go off on their own, she is forced to follow and do what she can to keep them safe. Her experiences become their own story as the film progresses.
Onward is simply fun for the whole family. It’s an Arthurian-style adventure set in the modern-day, but the characters are those of fairytales and legend. Disney/Pixar has created something truly magical, and this story is one that many children and adults will be able to identify with.
Onward is in theaters everywhere on March 6th, 2020.