HOLLYWOOD─There is not much animated cinema out there to entertain the kiddies nowadays, but if there was one that can be uplifting and powerful it’s the Pixar flick “Onward.” Upon first glance it looks like all the other animated movies out there, but there is indeed something a bit special about “Onward.” What is it? It highlights the bond between two brothers. I will admit I cannot recall too many animated flicks where such a relationship is highlighted in such a strong way.
With most, we see the bond between sisters, ala “Frozen” or the bond between siblings, but not direct brothers, at least not in way that comes directly to my mind people. This tale involves brothers, Ian (voice of Tom Holland) and Barley (voice of Chris Pratt). Ian is the younger brother, and Barley is the older brother. However, to be honest, the roles should be reversed: Ian is the more mature one, while Barley is a bit of a free spirit. Both are elf’s living in Mushroomtown (I love the name), where Ian lacks confidence, and Barley appears afraid of growing up.
Both brothers live with their mother Laurel (voice of Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her new husband Colt (voice of Mel Rodriguez), who happens to be a police officers. Ian has longed to learn more about his father Wilden (voice of Kyle Bornheimer), who died right after Ian was born. On his 16th birthday, Ian received a motif from his mother in celebration of his father, a magical staff, with details to a spell to allow the brothers the opportunity to resurrect their father for one day.
The brother’s manage to resurrect their father, at least partially in terms of his bottom half. The rest of “Onward” takes the two elves on a journey as they attempt to locate another magical gem to help them finish casting the spell to fully manifest their father’s entire body before it’s too late. This movie poses a great question to audiences: who would you contact and what would you ask them if you had one day to bring them back from the dead?
The thoughts are endless; the opportunities are limitless and even though the argument can be made that the theme in the question is more suited for adults than kids that does not mean they cannot identify or fathom such a reality. Kids are actually smarter than we think and if posed in the right way, they can understand what is taking place. The brotherly bond between Ian and Barley is fantastic as it evolves over time. They bond on this quest, and Ian learns a bit about his father and his brother in the process that he never acknowledged in the past.
The magical theme is used as a way to draw the audience in notably the kids, but in the process it sheds light on how families come together and bond in the darkest and happiest of times. Now this is not me arguing that “Onward” is the greatest animated movie of all time, it has flaws. We have characters that seem to come and go without a whimper and don’t add much to the narrative, but what movie doesn’t. Coming back to the core, this is a movie about brothers, and how age might impact the bonds in some ways, at the same time in strengthens them in the same process.