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Onward Movie Review - Heartfelt Quest Adventure

Brotherly love shines in this on-the-road romp.

Reviewed by on Mar 05, 2020
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld saw Onward. If you and your sibling have a bond that survives ups and downs, you can relate to this quest adventure. It’s heartfelt, funny and the action is well-animated. Check our movie review!

Onward is set in a world in which magic existed long ago but only to help those in need. Elf brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot (Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) receive a wizard’s staff from their long-dead dad. Mom (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has been saving it for Ian’s 16th birthday.

Ian and Barley are given a spell from dadIan and Barley are given a spell from dadCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

It includes a spell that can bring him back to life for 24 hours. Ian, he discovers, has magical abilities and uses the spell but, whoops, dad only rematerializes from the waist down. The bros must go on a quest to bring back the rest of dad before the 24 hours expires.

Onward Trailer



Magic Once Ruled

In the far past, magic, wizards and mythical creatures existed on another world but gradually, science and inventions replaced them. Unicorns, once majestic beasts, now root through trash like rag-tag raccoons. Elf teen Ian Lightfoot, who suffers from low self-esteem, is celebrating his 16th birthday while outgoing older brother Barley, an optimistic quest game player, teases him. Mom is dating Officer Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez), a centaur. Ian really misses the dad he never knew on this special day. He makes lists of goals to better himself. He is too shy to invite kids to share his birthday cake. He wants to learn to drive.

Ian almost invites kids to share his cakeIan almost invites kids to share his cakeCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

A Gift From Dad

Mom gives Ian and Barley a present from their dad that she has kept until both brothers were 16. It is a magical wizard’s staff with instructions for a spell that can bring dad back for 24 hours! The boys are thrilled but it is only Ian who has the magical powers to make it work….sort of.

Barley simply doesn't have magical powersBarley simply doesn't have magical powersCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Only the bottom half of dad rematerializes. Ian blames himself for screwing up the spell when the Phoenix gem topping the staff shatters! Barley knows they will need a new one and knows they must go on a quest, first finding a Manticore beast (Olivia Spencer) to help them find a new gem.

Ian's new magic goes wrongIan's new magic goes wrongCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

On the Road

Barley, Ian and dad (for whom they have created a top half out of a sack, sunglasses and a hat) are off on their quest in Barley’s beat-up van named Guenivere. On breaks from the trip, Ian learns and practices spells with Barley’s help. At the Manticore’s Tavern, once a magical haven, they find a family restaurant headed by a much tamed-down Manticore. She has forgotten about taking risks for adventure but is inspired by the guys and gives them a map to the needed gem. Ian wants to take the highway but Barley says gamers always take the more indirect path which, of course, leads to a lot of danger. Meanwhile, mom is searching for her sons and arrives at the tavern where she teams up with the Manticore and starts following the boys.

The guys hope the Manticore will help themThe guys hope the Manticore will help themCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

The Guardian Dragon

The Manticore informs mom that a ferocious dragon guards the stone and only Manticore’s special sword, which she has pawned, can kill it! The duo retrieves the sword and meanwhile, Ian has had to learn to drive and the boys are pursued by a gang of angry sprites/fairies who ride motorcycles because they’ve forgotten how to fly over the years. After tangling with the cops, Officer Bronco and other challenges, the guys continue their quest under tension with a hurt Barley thinking that Ian has always considered him a screw up.

Ian learns more magic on the roadIan learns more magic on the roadCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

The Quest Continues

The bros reconcile and Barley sacrifices his beloved van to help the guys continue on foot until, following the map and using their own smarts and cooperation, they manage to reach a cave that leads to the stone….and the guardian dragon. Will Mom and the Manticore arrive with the magic sword in time to help slay the dragon? Will the boys get the replacement stone and use the spell to be reunited with their whole dad before the 24 hours are up?

Will dad be whole before the time is up?Will dad be whole before the time is up?Courtesy of Disney•Pixar

Wrapping Up

Onward is a sweet salute to the ups and downs of brotherhood. It is very cool that older bro Barley isn’t jealous of his younger bro’s magical power but only works to coach him on the spells that his own quest gaming has taught him. Teamwork makes the dream work. Even feisty Mom is instrumental in achieving a successful quest.

Mom teams up with the ManticoreMom teams up with the ManticoreCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

However, the quest story isn’t as creative as it should be. It is an overly typical tribute to classic myth and dragon quest gaming (a dragon guarding a cave and magical stone, a gelatinous cube with powers, a magic slaying sword, etc.) Sections of the quest even borrow heavily from visual Indiana Jones film challenges.

A leap of faith like Indy Jones tookA leap of faith like Indy Jones tookCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

But, it is the bonding of very different brothers with a common goal that makes the movie very worthwhile. You might even get emotional as the need to reunite with dad increases.

Very different brothers can bondVery different brothers can bondCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Chases are creative and wonderfully animated.  Some of the humor falls flat while other jokes work just fine. The film isn’t Disney/Pixar’s best but the combination of visual gags, nice voice work by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt and a very emotional brotherly challenge make us award four stars.

Onward Movie Rating: 4

Onward  Movie PosterCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

See Onward in theaters now.

Would You Go On a Quest?

If it meant reuniting with someone you have lost, would you take on a dangerous quest? How do you and your siblings get along? Is there always love there or is jealousy in the mix? Do you have a fave magical creature? Talk up all things magical with a comment!