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Outward: Elves in search of a little magic

Pixar animation will certainly cheer you up in these worrying times

Onward (U)
Running time 1hr 42mins
Rating: *****

ONWARD, like most Pixar films, revolves around a clever concept, from which a heartwarming story grows. We had living playthings with Toy Story, personified emotions in Inside Out, and now, a modern suburban world combined with the magic and excitement of the high fantasy of dragons and wizards. It’s a simple yet ingenious idea, with Onward once again proving Pixar’s mastery of the animation craft.

The story follows the elf brothers of Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland), a typical nervous high schooler, and Barley (Chris Pratt), the older role-playing game fanatic, as they go on a quest to cast a spell that would allow them to see their deceased father for a day. It’s funny and charming, as we’ve all come to expect from Pixar, with the magical hijinks mixing with modern problems coming off as refreshingly original.

The quest sees them trying to escape from a biker gang full of pixies and run from the cops, whose officers include a centaur, a cyclops and a faun. Despite all the magical craziness, the film has a real heart at its centre, with the relationship between Ian and Barley being a pleasure to watch as we are taken along with them on their quest.

Holland and especially Pratt bring a real charisma to their animated counterparts. The supporting cast is also great, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Laurel Lightfoot, the boys’ mother, and Octavia Spencer as Corey, a vicious but well-meaning manticore going through a memorable identity crisis.

The most impressive part of the film is the sheer amount of detail put into its animation. From the stubble on Barley’s face to cracks in the pavement, Onward’s world is rich and expansive. Allusions to modern life such as the Burger Shire restaurant and rabid unicorns eating rubbish in dark alleys immerse you in the world even more. It’s one of Pixar’s most interesting world-building creations, and its one I hope we get to visit again.

I doubt Onward will be remembered as fondly as Pixar classics such as Monsters, Inc. or The Incredibles due to the current events inevitably stunting the box office, but it deserves it all the same. Its funny, creative and, for me, it really strung an emotional chord. The touching message of the importance of family is one that fits so well into the imaginative world of the film. I know not many people will be planning to take a trip to their local multiplex anytime soon, but if you do, Onward will certainly cheer you up in these worrying times.

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