“Onward” is a wonderful mix of comedy and high-fantasy any nerd like me will love

Onward is Disney/Pixar’s latest film to hit theaters, starring Tom Holland (Spider-man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and Chris Pratt (Star Lord in the MCU) as two brothers, Ian and Barley, living in New Mushroomton, a land that once was home to fantastical magic and adventure that has become a hum-drum suburb thanks to modern technology. 

On Ian’s 16th birthday, his mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) presents the boys with a gift from their late father: a wizard’s staff! Along with it is a visitation spell to bring him back for one day so he can meet the son he never met as he had passed away from a terminal illness prior to his birth. Ian, not the stoutest of character or fortitude, botches the spell and only is able to bring back his father’s bottom half before using up the Phoenix Stone. Barley, a history fanatic and fan of a table-top fantasy game called Quest of Yore decrees they shall take on the quest to find another Phoenix Stone and bring back the rest of their father before the 24 hours is up. 

Barley is a bit of an embarrassment to Ian who thinks his brother spends too much time focusing on the magic-filled past. Ian really wants to meet his father, but thinks the majority of Barley’s plans are fool-hearty and doubts him at every turn. After yet another debacle knocks them off course, he finally agrees to trust Barley’s instincts and it turns out, he’s right on the money! 

Meanwhile, Laurel teams up with the Manticore (Octavia Spencer) who gave up her adventuring days to turn her infamous Manticore Tavern into a kitschy family restaurant. After the boys learn where to find another Phoenix Stone from one of her children’s coloring menus, the two brave women set out to find the boys and hopefully keep them from awakening a cursed ancient dragon bound to protect the stone.

This is my kind of movie! High fantasy, magic, whimsy, family bonding, and a road trip movie all rolled into one. The cast are excellent (Holland has said in interviews that Pratt really wants to get the Avengers cast together to play Dungeons & Dragons and I would pay good money to see that), the story is heart-warming, and it’s all-around a really fun movie. There are a lot of subtle jokes in the backgrounds as well. For one, the prevalent soda in this world is Mountain Doom. The gas station chains are called Swamp Gas. Pay close attention to catch all of them!

As a fan and player of Dungeons & Dragons, a lover of Lord of the Rings and other high fantasy, the movie was just what I wanted right now, given the state of things. Also a story of two brothers going on a quest hit me right in the feels. It is also a very inclusive film, having characters with disabilities, children navigating the world of their mother dating after their father’s death, and a police officer in a same-sex relationship. Disney/Pixar know what their audience is craving in terms of representation on screen and have been killing it as of late. 

If you too are drawn to tales of valor and magic, you’re going to love this movie. I look forward to having it in heavy rotation once it’s on Disney+. 


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Snack Packs

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