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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Mar 8, 2020


ONWARD is another silly but sweet animated flick from Disney and Pixar. It is set in a world inhabited by mythological fantasy characters like elves, centaurs, unicorns, trolls in leather jackets and the like, and they all have a pretty smooth interspecies relationship.

It says that their world used to be full of wonder and magic. But that was a long time ago as inventions like electricity, various home appliances, cars, and other technological gadgets like cellphones have made magical spells obsolete in their city called New Mushroomton.

The lead character is Ian Lightfoot (voice by Spider-Man Tom Holland), a pointy eared elf with a big nose who is celebrating his 16th birthday. He puts on his late dad’s college sweater for good luck.

His mom (Julia Louis Dreyfus) still treats him like a baby while his older brother, the loud and blustering Barley (Chris Pratt, the Star Lord), meddles with him all the time, often embarrassing him, even in front of his classmates in school who he wants to invite to their home for his birthday.

Their dad passed while he was still an infant and he misses growing up without a father. Barley is fond of playing a fantasy game called Quests of Yore and the chance to see their dad again comes along when a long tucked away birthday gift in their attic is presented to Ian by their mom on his 16th birthday.

It turns out to be a wizard staff which, with the help of Barley’s Quest of Yore spells, might bring back their dad to life for one day and they can catch up with their lives.  They try it, but Barley’s bumbling, meddlesome ways, botches it all up and only the lower half (from the waist down) of their dad materializes.

They then have to go on a journey into the unknown to search for an enchanted phoenix gemstone in a magical mountain that will make their dad complete.

As may be expected, they encounter lots of adventures along the way, some of them complete with conundrums and booby traps like a gelatin blob that swallows eveything in its path, all inspired by the Indiana Jones movies.

Ultimately, Ian has to learn how to face his fears and believe in himself, like when he nervously crosses an invisible bridge that will work only if he’d really believe. He also realizes that his relationship with his annoying brother is the one thing he should really treasure.

He learns that one should settle for what we already have rather than pining for something that is already permanently lost, like the daddy issues that hound him.

The technical expertise in animation is evident in the climax involving a dragon made of assembled concrete pieces. This is quite action-packed, but the movie’s first half takes time to get going and is quite sleep-inducing.

It isn’t really up to the usual Disney-Pixar’s high standards in storytelling that we’ve become accustomed to in past animated flicks like the “Toy Story” franchise, “Finding Nemo”, “Up” and “The Incredibles”.
But the heartwarming story involving the two brothers does manage to somewhat redeem it in the end, with a touch of sentimentality at that.

In fairness to the voice actors, Tom Holland convincingly breathes life into Ian with his expressive boyish voice and Chris Pratt effectively conveys Barley’s loud character that turns out to have an emotional side too.

Giving great support are Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer as a fire-breathing Manticore who brings humor and action to her role, and Mel Rodriguez as the centaur cop Colt Bronco who’s the boyfriend of the two boys’ mom.