Onward – Review

Worth seeing: for another slice of Pixar magic, that tackles a difficult issue with imaginative flair
Director:Dan Scanlon
Featuring:Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, John Ratzenberger, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mel Rodriguez, Octavia Spencer, Tracey Ullman
Length:102 minutes
Released:6th March 2020, available online now and on disc from 1st June


In a world where all the magic has been overtaken by technology, young elf Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) has just turned 16.

His mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has been waiting until this moment to give him and his older brother Barley (Chris Pratt) a present left for them by their late father, who – it turns out – used to dabble a little in the magical arts. It’s a wizard’s staff, an enchanted gem and a spell that will bring their father back to life … but only for 24 hours.

Ian gives the spell a go; first the feet appear, then some ankles and legs – but he can’t quite control the magic and the spell shudders to a halt at their father’s waist.

Barley – an expert in dungeons-and-dragons style gaming – says they need to find a replacement gem and have another go, but the clock is already ticking so they’re going to have to work fast to complete their quest and repeat the spell before their father – or at least his legs – disappears again.

The brothers head off on a magical adventure to find the gem, meet their father and learn a bit more about what they really want out of life.


This latest Pixar adventure, while it’s a U certificate, is a little darker in its themes than many of its predecessors; centring on a teenager whose father died before he had a chance to meet him and his older brother, who never got to say goodbye properly, it includes dangerous quests, mini-monsters, deathly dragons, curses and the reanimation of the dead.

On the surface, it doesn’t sound like obvious subject matter for a studio that’s been entertaining youngsters and their grown-ups since Toy Story, 25 years ago, but with likeable – if not particularly memorable – protagonists, a breezy script and the typically faultless animation, this life-after-death thriller is surprisingly family-friendly.

At its heart, Onward is a film about family relationships – lost and found. As the boys go on a magical quest, reaching an Indiana Jones-inspired conclusion, they realise that while they thought they were trying to find their Dad, their experience has been more about finding each other.

There are moments that younger kids might find a little frightening – including mini flying biker critters and a rather fearsome dragon, but there’s enough warm-hearted revelations and typical character comedy to counteract those moments.

It doesn’t have the simplest story or the clearest message and it’s far from Pixar’s most memorable production, but it’s a compelling and entertaining ride that will engage primary-school kids and parents with warm memories of playing dungeons and dragons – and it sets out to resonate with anyone who’s lost a parent at a young age, trying to help them move onward in their lives in a most uplifting way.