In Brief: Clever. Very clever. Also really sweet and one that made me want to spend one more day with my late father, even if it was just half of him.
Onward has two young elves going on a quest to find the other half of their father. It’s as fun as it sounds and the trailer shows. Best of all though, it’s a movie for those of us who’ve loved and lost our fathers.
The movie is set in a fantasy land packed with the usual assortment of mythical creatures from monsters to elves and everything in between. Ian Lightfoot is an elf. He’s never met his father. Dad died before he was born.
Ian is trying to find his place in life. He’s shy, insecure and lost. Most of all, Ian wishes he’d met his father who was confident, strong and everything Ian wants to be but can’t.
On his 16th birthday, Ian and his 19-year old brother Burley get a gift from their father. It’s a staff with a stone that gives it magical powers. Along with the stick is a spell that can bring their father back to life for 24-hours. During the casting of the spell something goes wrong and only the bottom half of dad shows up.
Burley is totally into magic but has no skills. Ian isn’t but it turns out he’s the one with the ability to make the stick work. At least work half way. The stone explodes after the spell is cast. Burley convinces Ian that there is another one just like it on a nearby mountain. What he doesn’t know is that the mountain is a very dangerous place.
Plus, they keep getting delayed and the clock is ticking. Dad can only be back on this side of eternity for 24-hours whether he is whole or not.
There’s more but you get the gist. The two boys are voiced by Spider-Man’s Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. Julia Louis-Dreyfus does the voice of their mother and Octavia Spencer is a creature called the Manticore. It’s a Pixar flick so — as always — John Ratzenberger voices a character.
They all have a good time with a sometimes clever but straight ahead script. That’s courtesy of director Dan Scanion (Monsters University) and writers Jason Headley and Keith Bunin. They treat the mature among us to lots of laughs and put a ton of slapstick into the film for the kids.
They also pack the expected fantasy movie mumbo jumbo and the usual odd characters and easy to predict plot points into Onward. At the same time, the movie is also very sweet, often sentimental and — in places — downright deep.
Ian misses the dad he’s never known and Burley has an unresolved issue with his father as well. How Scanion and his two writers resolve all the lack of resolution is beautiful.
Plus they do a great job of giving half of dad a seriously funny personality. He’s the film’s best character and says nothing but everything. Clever. Very clever.
This is a wonderful flick for all of us but — as noted earlier — it’s even more so for those of us who’ve lost our fathers and who wish we could spend another day with him — even if it’s just with one half.
My recommendation? Onward to the box office. This is an animated feature that’ll please everyone.
Director: Dan Scanion
Stars: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, John Ratzenberger
Rated PG for mature themes. Destined to be the best animated movie of the year. Give it a Friday Flicks with Gary 5 on the 0 to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.