Onward, by Cameron J. Czaja

It’s been two months since 2020 began and I finally watched a film that I was anticipating and that movie was Onward. As you know by now, animation is one of my favorite genres of film because those types of films have the potential to be something great on a visual level. Recently, however, I’ve been pretty disappointed with some that were released last year, such as The Addams Family and Frozen II, which makes me question if I’m getting too old for the genre (I literally just turned thirty last month). Fortunately, Onward is made by Pixar, which is a company that I have strong faith in due to its reputation of making quality animated films. Did this meet my expectations? As usual let’s find out.

In Onward we follow Ian and Barley Lightfoot (Tom Holland & Chris Pratt), two elf brothers who live in a fantasy world that cohabitates with modern technology and magic is something of an old practice. On the evening of Ian’s sixteenth birthday, his mom, Laurel Lightfoot (Julie Marie Dreyfus), presents him a gift from his late father, Wilden Lightfoot (Kyle Bornheimer), who passed away before Ian was born. That gift is a wizard staff (which excites Barley as he thrives on the idea of magic) and with that staff comes a spell that allows the wielder to bring back anyone from the dead for one whole day. While trying to perform the spell to bring back their father, it unfortunately backfires and only the bottom half of their dad is resurrected. Using Barley’s knowledge of old magic, the two brothers set off on a journey to find if there’s still some magic out there to fully bring back their dad before time runs out.

I won’t say that I loved Onward because I feel like that word has been way overused when describing something we really like, but it was something that met my expectations and I definitely want to see it again in theaters if I find the time. I think the reason why this movie works well for me is because of the characters and the emotional connection that I had with the film, which I’ll elaborate on.

Aside from having likable characters, one aspect that I enjoy from any film is when those likable characters have terrific chemistry. I definitely saw that in Onward between Ian and Barley as the film did a great job showing us their brotherly relationship, and convinced me that it was genuine even though we only know them for a short time. I think what helped was that Tom Holland and Chris Pratt collaborated before in the last two Avengers films and they were able to carry that chemistry from those films to here. While there were others characters that I found intriguing such as the Manticore (Octavia Spencer), the movie mostly focuses on the two brothers and I enjoyed every minute that they were on-screen together.

Before watching Onward, I knew that the theme of brotherhood was going to be a big factor in this film, but I didn’t know that it was going to hit me on an emotional level. A few weeks ago I went to a Catholic men’s conference, and while hearing one of the speakers I had an epiphany. Aside from a father, a man’s closest male companion is his brother, and I am very fortunate that God has blessed me with one that I truly love and always looks out for me in my time of need. This is reflected in the film when Ian begins to realize that Barley has always been that father figure to him, which made for a heartfelt scene between the two brothers that I was glad to experience with my own brother.

If there’s any criticism I have of Onward (which is very minor by the way), it is that not all the jokes reached their full potential. Other than that, however, this was a film I deeply enjoyed, mostly because of the themes and characters. If you have a brother of your own, I highly encourage you to see it with them if given the opportunity. Again, I was just glad I was able to see it with my brother.

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