Pixar simply has my number. I’ve seen 16 of the studio’s 22 films – the ones I’ve missed are Cars 2, Cars 3, Brave, Monsters University, Finding Dory and Coco – 11 of the 16 had me blubbering like a little bitch. Without fail if I’m jibing with one of their flicks I’m a goner. The waterworks will hit and they won’t let up. I’ve been known to ugly cry at Pixar movies. I’ve hyperventilation cried at Pixar movies. I did all of the above during Onward, Pixar’s latest entry. If you’re anything like me and A.) Pixar owns your ass or B.) You’ve got daddy or brother issues – I’ve got both! – you’ll be a goner too.
Onward features elven brothers Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt, giving off substantial Jack Black vibes), who lost their dad, Wilden (Kyle Bornheimer), prior to Ian’s birth and when Barley was just a wee lad. Their mother, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), does the best she can getting Ian to come out of his shell and attempting to put Barley back into his. Laurel is also dating a centaur cop named Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez), who often butts heads with Barley during his multiple protests to salvage historical sites within their fantastical suburban community.
On his sixteenth birthday Ian is given posthumous gifts from their departed Dad – a wizard’s staff, a Phoenix Gem AKA MacGuffin MacGuffinstuff and a spell that will allow the brothers to bring their father back for one day. The incantation goes awry and only Wilden’s legs are conjured. The brothers set off on an epic quest to procure another Phoenix Gem to finish the spell using Barley’s magical knowledge gleaned from a history-based Dungeons and Dragons-style role playing game.
The voice cast is excellent across the board – it’s also filled out by the likes of Octavia Spencer as a manticore restauranteur who aids the brothers on their mission, Tracey Ullman as a hilariously sleazy lizard lady who owns a pawn shop, Lena Waithe as a cyclops cop who happens to be a lesbian (which has stupidly gotten the movie banned in many Middle Eastern countries and censored in Russia), Ali Wong as a faun police officer, and as is Pixar tradition, John Ratzenberger. Even with all this talent on board the real standout is Pratt. This is the most Andy Dwyer the dude’s been in a hot minute.
Despite being fantastical, there’s a very real emotional core to Onward. Co-writer/director Dan Scanlon (Monsters University), whose father died when he was 1, infuses the movie with deep, genuine feeling. As this is a Pixar joint it’s the little things that’ll get ya – one character’s foot touching another character’s foot or somebody checking or crossing items off a list for instance left me a crybaby shitshow. It’s in these details that the wizards at Pixar make true movie magic.