Saturday, December 26, 2020

Movie with Abe: Onward

Directed by Dan Scanlon
Released March 6, 2020

The creation of easier ways to accomplish difficult tasks tends to be heralded as a masterful scientific innovation and celebrated for the time and effort it can save. Eager consumers await the newest inventions and upgrade instantly to something that’s considered slightly better than what already exists, not content to be left behind with an outdated version. Yet there’s something lost in not understanding the processes that exist and the simple ingredients that can lead to complex results, and putting less thought into executing a particular action can give it significantly less meaning.

Ian and Barley Lightfoot are elven brothers in modern-day New Mushroomtown. Ian is shy and insecure, while his older brother Barley is considerably more self-assured and directionless in his life. When Ian turns sixteen, his mother Laurel reveals a gift left behind by their late father: a magical staff with the ability to bring him back to life for one day. The spell goes awry, resulting in only the bottom half of their father being conjured, and Ian and Barley set off on a wild quest to find a way to get all of him back.

This marks the twenty-second film from Pixar, a studio that has proven time and time again its ability to endearingly bring fantastical concepts to the screen in a manner accessible to all audiences. The idea of getting to spend more time with someone who has been gone for a long time is indeed appealing, and there’s a wondrous maturity embedded in the premise of this film, that brings him back but without a face and the ability to speak. Much of the ensuing antics are comical, but there is a sweet-natured resonance about loss and relationships that drives all of that lighthearted action.

The structure of this film is fairly typical, and it’s nice to get to know both Ian and Barley along the way as they come to terms with who they are. Setting it within a world full of magic only makes the story more relatable, especially as characters come to realize the abilities they possess that can make small tasks and big actions more meaningful by recognizing their role in achieving them. The voice cast, led by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, is superbly-assembled, helping to complete a thoroughly entertaining and worthwhile animated effort in great company with past Pixar projects.


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