Pixar’s Onward takes place in a world of elves, trolls, dragons, and unicorns, but it’s also a world where all these creatures have forgotten how to use their magic. So their world is a lot like ours — centaurs are cops, fairies ride motorbikes, and unicorns eat trash out of dumpsters. The heroes of our story are two elf brothers — one who believes in magic, and one who doesn’t. When they learn magic can return their father to them for just one day, they embark on a quest to find the rare stone that will make the spell possible. The story is a literal bromance, with the younger elf (voiced by Tom Holland) learning to love his older brother (voiced by Chris Pratt), whose belief in magic has always embarrassed the younger elf.
The brothers’ journey is an entertaining one, featuring an exciting escape from the aforementioned fairy biker gang and an encounter with a once fearsome creature named The Manticore (Octavia Spencer) who now waitresses at a medieval-themed restaurant. I was also happy to see the boys’ mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) given the opportunity to be a hero as well, instead of being relegated to the sidelines like movie moms so often are.
But what really makes Onward work is its message, which isn’t obvious at the outset. When I learned the movie about two brothers and a deceased father, I knew Pixar was going to be mining those familial bonds for tears. To their credit, though, Onward doesn’t resolve like I imagined. It ended better.
But still with tears.
I mean, come on. It’s Pixar.