Disney and Pixar have highlighted the magic of brotherly love with their latest production of “Onward.”
Ian Lightfoot, voiced by Tom Holland, and Barley Lightfoot, voiced by Chris Pratt, make an excellent duo as the lead characters. The film is intense with A-list voice acting, emotional family moments, epic fantasy adventure and great music.
Elf brothers Ian and Barley live in a world where spells and wizardry have faded due to technological innovations making for a simpler life. One day, they find a spell to resurrect their deceased father, Wilden, voiced by Kyle Bornheimer, for one whole day. When the spell only grants part of Wilden’s body, the three race against time, dragons and boulders to rebuild long-lost family and magic.
Watching Holland’s character of Ian was like watching another animated Peter Parker, struggling to find his place without a certain relative, or getting into sticky situations while trying to act cool in high school. Nevertheless, it’s impressive that he learns to conjure spells and stick by his big brother through it all.
Pratt’s character of Barley is similar to Star-Lord. He’s overzealous when trying to unlock Ian’s belief in the power of sorcery and is always looking for some fantasy action.
Laurel Lightfoot, voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, is arguably bigger in this role than her role as Princess Atta in Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life.” Instead of her depiction of a stressed-out princess, she plays an encouraging mother to her boys and a fierce warrior in the final battle.
Corey, voiced by Octavia Spencer, is a comical manticore who used be a fearless, fire-breathing creature until she went into the family restaurant business. Yet, when the moment calls, she’s still able to roar out the monster in her.
Much of the emotion in the film comes from the boys’ determination to bring their father back to life. Even though most of his body is gone, Ian and Barley are able to partake in father and son bonding: dancing to rock music, laughing and keeping their love alive, which to them is the most magical of all.
Of the different scenes in “Onward,” the most wondrous are the moments when the magic begins to return. For instance, throughout the road trip, Ian and Barley encounter magical beings such as an evil stone dragon and pixies relearning to fly.
When Ian has to overcome creating and crossing an invisible bridge to get a gem for the resurrection spell, it is reminiscent of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
In addition to the bridge, their journey remains playful when Ian and Barley float to a dangerous tunnel using a giant cheese puff from an enlarging spell. The same humor occurs when Ian accidentally shrinks Barley while trying to enlarge a gas tank for their van.
Disney and Pixar have truly outdone themselves with the fantasy landscape. From the opening of the film to the final attack, it’s swarming with wizards, satyrs, centaurs and unicorns ready for combat. Even without the magic, the brothers trek through a majestic forest, survive numerous booby traps and strengthen their bond, all while driving around in a van named “Guinevere” with pegasus decorations on the doors.
Another major theme of “Onward” includes questions of faith. Ian struggles to have faith in magic when no one else does. He also struggles to measure up to his father’s greatness and match his brother’s enthusiasm about wizardry.
The musical scoring by Mychael and Jeff Danna had guitar, piano and violin that heightened scenes of Ian missing his father and victory showing up for the heroes. Brandi Carlile’s, “Carried Me With You,” talked about there being no conflict in the world that can’t be solved without holding family in your heart.
If you feel you’ve lost your magic, be sure to watch “Onward.”