Here in Ontario, Canada, the pandemic really started for us around March, 2020. For many, 'Onward' was the last movie they barely managed to see in theatres, but for many more like myself, this was one of the first titles of the year to embrace the idea of simultaneous theatrical and home release (for a price, of course). So, once again, Pixar acted as a pioneer for a whole new concept. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but this might have been the first movie to catch on, with a theatrical date of March 6 and a home release of March 20. 'Trolls: World Tour' has the first absolute for both releases, on April 10.
On with the plot in question, things take place in a fantasy world where magic used to exist, and be used by many, but relatively hard for anyone to master. Eventually, technology comes along, ironically making things much easier for people. The first example we see is the light bulb as opposed to having to conjure a light spell. Technology takes over, and these fantasy societies end up adapting to a present-day real-world scenario. I actually love that this movie suggests that magic might often be useless with the way things are now. Technology provides convenience, and that's pretty heavily illustrated in the beginning.
Our main focus is on two brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) who is celebrating his 16th birthday, and his older brother, Barley (Chris Pratt), who is obsessed with RPG games that are based on the accurate history of their world. So think of 'Dungeons & Dragons' as though it was based on accurate medieval history. Together, they live with their mother, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who was widowed after the boys' father, Wilden (Kyle Bornheimer) passed away before Ian was born. On Ian's birthday, he comes of the appropriate age for his mother to give the boys a very special gift left to the boys by their Dad - a real wizard staff, and a spell that will allow them to bring their father back to life for a full day.
After a few failed attempts from Barley, Ian learns later that night that he actually has the magic within him to make the spell work. However, unable to keep the spell under control, Ian botches it. The only thing that managed to appear as the boys' father is a set of legs. In the process, Ian shatters the rare "phoenix gem" (which comes with the staff, and is necessary for such an advanced spell). This sets Ian and Barley on a road trip to find another phoenix gem, using Barley's knowledge of their history to help guide them. But they have to do it within 24 hours, or else they won't be able to complete the spell and see their father. For Ian, it's a big deal because he never got a chance to meet him, and as for barley, he only really carries a few memories of him.
As far as Pixar movies go, I wouldn't consider the the best, but it's still totally solid. However, I might also suggest that this was largely aimed at a certain audience. I'd say that if you've ever been into RPG games, things might mean a bit more to you when watching it. On the other hand, it is also about two very different brothers on a mission to see their Dad one last time. Having an older brother and experiencing the same kind of loss, this does hit me on a personal level as well. I wouldn't say it totally hits me in the feels, but it's not without a few moments here and there that remind me of the relationship I have with my brother. I mean that in all the best ways - like if I was ever scared to do something (as Ian tends to be), my brother might be found on the side lines, encouraging me (much like Barley does here and there throughout the film). They give each other a hard time, but there's definitely love there.
The film was Oscar-nominated under the Best Animated Feature category, but lost to 'Soul', meaning Pixar won anyway. The same thing happened at the Golden Globes, but that certainly doesn't mean that this isn't any good. I remember when it first came out and people didn't seem altogether sure what to think about it. For me, I basically thought Pixar had done it again with a lot of the ideas they had here. But perhaps its that it didn't feel like it spoke to the masses as opposed to geek culture with all of its mythical references. Still though, there's a little spark to this movie that I like. It parallels 'Ratatouille' or 'Cars' in that sense. It's a good time, but it doesn't quite reach me on every level.
Writers and Directors