“Long ago the world was filled with wonder — adventurous, exciting and, best of all — there was magic!” says “Onward’s” narrator (voice of Kyle Bornheimer) before the opening credits. “But the world found a simpler way to get along. Over time, the magic faded away but, I hope, there’s a little magic left.” (We learn, later, who the narrator is.) That’s the setup for Disney/Pixar’s animated quest adventure, “Onward.”
Can Barley (voice of Chris Pratt) convince Ian, his younger brother (voice of Tom Holland), that he, too, can do magic? Will the blue-skinned elfin brothers find the magic stone that unites them with Wilden, their Dad — if only for one day? Does “Onward” mix laughs and tears? You betcha.
Tom Holland and Chris Pratt enthusiastically voice “Onward’s” principal characters, Ian and Barley Lightfoot. Of them, their mother, Laurel (voice of Julia Louis-Dreyfus), says, “One of them is afraid of everything [that’s sweet 16-year old Ian]; the other is afraid of nothing [that’s his brash older brother Barley].” Ian was born after his father died, so has no memory of his dad. Barley confesses he did not see his father die: “I got scared,” he says, “and didn’t go in to see him. That’s when I resolved never to be scared again.” Octavia Spencer is the voice of Corey, The Manticore, retired ancient winged-warrior who runs a popular tavern. “My days of sending people on dangerous adventures are over,” she says, but changes her mind, joining the brothers’ mom as she follows Barley and Ian on their quest for the Phoenix Gem.
Others in the voice cast include Mel Rodriguez as Colt Bronco, a centaur police officer who, with difficulty, gets hoofs in and out of his squad car. The brothers’ mom and he are dating. Grey Griffin is the voice of Dewdrop, leader of “The Sprites,” a pixie motorcycle gang. John Ratzenberger — in his 22nd Pixar film — voices construction worker Fenwick.
Dan Scanlon directed “Onward,” and co-wrote (with Keith Bunin and Jason Headley) its story and screenplay. Like Ian and Barley, Scanlon lost his father when he was young, but “Onward” is about brotherly bonding as well as parental loss. “I had someone to push me to be more than I thought I could be,” Ian says to Barley. “I always had you.” It’s a tender moment.
Rated PG for action, peril, and some mild thematic elements, “Onward” runs 102 minutes. It’s fast-paced, with action and funny characters that kids will enjoy. Take the family.
Barley to his younger bro:
“Speak from your heart’s fire!”
So, “Onward” the brothers go —
Finding Dad is their desire.