Review: Onward


If I could compare “Onward” to any other film, it would probably be “Shrek.” Both share a premise based on a modern, satirical take of a fantasy-themed world and a heartwarming message. Also like “Shrek,” “Onward” delivers an enticing yarn with great character dynamics.

The Lightfoot brothers, Ian (Tom Holland, who may as well be acting as a blue Peter Parker without super powers) and Barley (a boisterous Chris Pratt). are teenage elves living with their mother, Laura Lightfoot (a very protective Julia Louis-Dreyfoot). 

Their father (a warm and awkward Kyle Bornheimer), who died before Ian was born, left a magical staff for the boys when they both became adults, which is 16 by the standards set by the movie’s fantasy universe. With the staff came instructions for performing a spell that would resurrect the boys’ father, but only for 24 hours. 

Ian, whom Barley says has an affinity for learning and using magic, attempts to use the spell and only partially succeeds, bringing back everything below their father’s waist. With the 24-hour clock ticking, the brothers must find a way to bring the rest of their father back before they run out of time.

“Onward” also takes place during “modern” times in, as previously mentioned, a fantastical world. The film’s narrated introduction talks about the wonders of long-gone magic, with pegasi flying above mountaintops like angels. With a quick cut to modern day, two pegasi fight over scraps from a tipped over trash can like alley rats. The comparison gave me a great laugh, and the rest of the film follows up with humor that doesn’t disappoint.

Luckily, because the plot shines so much on Ian and Barley, it lets the characters and their respective voice actors shine. Holland and Pratt’s chemistry already exists from their partnership in the “Avengers” films, and “Onward” writers took advantage of that. Outside of their written characters, Holland and Pratt bring an exceptional amount of honesty and humility that brings life to an incredible character dynamic.

What that dynamic especially brings to the table is making the film’s message genuine. The message from “Onward” is mostly about being grateful for what you have and understanding that your life doesn’t have to be a picture-perfect fairy tale to be fulfilling. It’s a unique and special message.

I don’t think “Onward” will survive like Shrek has managed to, but I do think it’s a simple and enjoyable watch for people of all ages.