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In a recent review I talked about checking out a recent release through a streaming service and it wound up being a good experience. But it was a soft-spoken release that was done through Kino. But now we are talking about Onward, a film that my family was set to see in the theater in March before we decided to cancel due to Coronavirus concerns, and then school cancelled and staying at home became the norm. So bless up to Disney+ and their decision to bring it out to their service, and in HDR to boot! What a country!
Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley and Keith Bunin co-wrote the film, and Scanlon directed the film, another in a long line of Pixar releases from the Pixar veteran. Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland, Spider Man: Homecoming) is an elf who just turned 16, and lives with his mother (Julia Louis Dreyfus, Veep) and older brother Barley (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy) . Thanks to a gift left to the boys by their father (who died when the boys were very young), they go on a quest to try and find some magic that would allow them the chance to spend one more day with their Dad.
The thing about Pixar is that they are confident in their storytelling, that they can pretty much give you the movie in their trailers, but still leave something in reserve that you know is going to punch you right in your tear makers. That they are able to do this as consistently as they do is why Pixar is Pixar, but I digress. Given some personal events in my life in the last year, I knew I was going to be in for a small cryfest, and I got it, but not in the way that I expected.
First off, the movie does a funny job of setting up the past elven worlds and making things modern because they were simply easy, and why not? So for a sense of magic and adventure, they have to look to their past for them, and Onward handles the feelings of adventure next to the hilarious modern intricacies that elves deal with in contemporary life well, and matter of fact to a large extent. Dreyfus, Holland and Pratt set all this up nicely.
As the film moves on and focuses on the brothers, their discovery of their feelings about their Dad, what they would want to do or say to him, and eventually realize that only so much can go into those plans before they become trivial. They want to enjoy the time they can spend with him, and as the adventure goes on they learn about how each other has dealt with their Dad's death also. It is a touching evolution over the course of the film, and Holland and Pratt manage to possess their respective senses of naivete and innocence throughout. Sure, Barley knows about adventures and magic from his free time playing DnD, but that only carries them so much.
Scanlon has been part of the creative team behind some recent Pixar films that have dived into deep emotional territory for kids and for grownups, with Inside Out and Coco being among them. Onward may not reach those same heights, but it is a joy to experience and given the times we're in, it's legacy should last longer than its theatrical run did.