Onward’s Ian and Barley

Onward’s Ian and Barley

Lily Flannery, Staff reporter


‘Onward’ Review: A Satisfying Story of Brotherly Love

Dan Scanlon’s Onward is the latest Pixar animation film, that follows the moving and entertaining tale of two elven brothers desperately trying to bring back their deceased father for one day. Scanlon, who also directed Monsters University in 2013 for Pixar, was inspired to write this story due to his personal experiences of his own father dying when he was just a year old. With this central idea in mind, he and his co-writers, Keith Bunin and Jason Headley, created a world full of elves, fairies, and centaurs. This world was once filled with magic before technology began to take over and that magic was lost. The two main brothers are played by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, both of whom give impressive vocal performances. Holland plays the shy and introverted younger brother, Ian, who aspires to make friends, take chances, and be more like his father. Ian, at the beginning of the story, struggles with the idea that he never got to know his father, since he died before he was born. On the contrary, Pratt plays the loud and energetic older brother, Barley, who still lives at home with his mother and brother. Unlike Ian, Barley has faint memories of his father. Their quest begins after their mother, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, gives Ian a gift from his father for his 16th birthday. It is a staff that, with the use of magic, can bring back their father for 24 hours. The spell, however, only brings back half of their father, generating merely a pair of pants, shoes, and purple-striped socks. The brothers, in turn, embark on a quest to bring back the rest of their father for however long is remaining in the 24 hours. 

One of Onward’s obstacles as a Pixar film is that audiences will be expecting it to match a certain level of quality that they usually receive with Pixar. In addition, all Pixar films are immediately compared to their predecessors. Although these comparisons can be difficult to overcome, Onward is a solid film that has emotion, humor, and adventure. As expected from Pixar, the film’s animations are top-notch. The world that Onward takes place in is beautiful, extremely detailed, and unique. Every scene looks very realistic from the cars to the surrounding landscape in the background. The design of all of the characters, such as the blue elves, are distinct and make the Onward characters easy to remember and set apart from other animated characters. 

The film uses themes of brotherly love, learning to accept one’s self, and learning to handle the loss of a loved one to drive the film and allow the audience to really connect to the film. It is easy to root for the characters since the film illustrates how heartbreaking it is for Ian and Barley because they both wish they could say things to their father and make him proud. They aren’t able to enjoy the simple moments with their father that many people take for granted like learning to drive a car. Throughout the film, the brothers must overcome their fears and learn to trust each other in order to bring their father back. Although at times this feels redundant since Pixar has used these themes in the past in films such as Finding Nemo; for the most part, Onward feels original and distinct by using the love between two brothers as the central idea. One of the problems Onward has is that as the story progresses and the brothers continue on their quest, the amount of time they could potentially have with their father continues to decrease. It is easy to become less interested in the journey because the “prize”, if you will, keeps diminishing in value. In addition, the stakes aren’t extremely high if they do fail to bring back their father. Although death is tragic, it is a part of life and no one is ever given the chance to bring back the dead in real life, so it doesn’t seem that terrible if they do fail on their quest. They were lucky to have gotten this chance in the first place. 

However, the overall plot and the characters are likeable enough to stay invested as a viewer. It is still enjoyable to watch and emotional to see this family talk about their father and learn to support each other. All in all, Onward is an entertaining and heartwarming watch that is fun for the entire family.