It's always a little more difficult to identify with animated
characters, particularly if they don't look like us.
But “Onward” is charming enough to make us root for the modern
teenage brothers, even if they are descendants of elves.
We begin with a voiceover about how the world used to be more
magical and mystical, even adventurous and dangerous, until suburban
living successfully smoothed out all the rough edges.
Creatures with wings didn't need to fly anymore; they had
transportation that didn't require effort.
Minotaurs could ride in cars. Fairies
could ride little motorcycles instead of using their wings.
Even the fierce Manticore (Octavia Spencer) was reduced to spending
all her energies running a theme restaurant that had devolved from the
adventurous to the insipid.
As for the brothers, the older one, Barley (Chris Prat) is enjoying
a “gap year,” where he essentially hangs around the house and plays
his fantasy game, involving wizards and spells and a seemingly endless
array of magic trivia. The
younger brother, Ian (Tom Holland), is just turning 16, but he obviously
lacks social skills, and also can't bring himself to be confident enough
to even learn to drive. It
seems that he gets too nervous trying to navigate the on-ramps of
highways. Barley, for his
part, fears nothing, and he's also loud, brash, boisterous, and quickly
developing a reputation as a slackard.
He drives an old van which he's named Guinevere, which he envisions
as his legendary winged unicorn. Their
Mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is kindly and supportive to both boys,
but she can't bring back their Dad, who died so young that Ian doesn't
remember him at all, and Barley only a little.
The scenario changes quickly when Laurel brings out a gift which
she's kept all this time, which the boys' Dad wanted her to give them when
they were both past 16. It
turns out to be a wizard's wand, complete with an incantation that would
bring Dad back for a day.
Well, the magic gets muffed, and Dad winds up being just a pair of
pants. At least until the boys
can locate the other precious gem that activates the wizard's wand.
That launches them on a quest through the countryside, where they
experience unique adventures, which finally lead them....back where they
started? Yes, part of the
point is that you don't have to be someone you're not in order to “find
yourself.” But you do need
to learn to tap into those things that are already within you, like
courage, and confidence, and wait for it......a little love for those
Yes, it's just emotional enough to help us connect with the
characters, but it's a fun action/adventure, as well, complete with
fire-breathing dragons and secret codes and hidden keys.
You'll even get used to the idea of Dad as traveling pants.
It's certainly a unique creative effort, and is suitable for all
ages, but especially the ones who delight in the magical and whimsical.