By Marc S. Sanders

I’m thinking director Dan Scanlon could very well be the next Chris Columbus or JJ Abrams or maybe…well maybe not Spielberg. But still! His new film Onward from the genius labs of Disney/Pixar is better than I ever expected.

Think about it. The imagination of the film all goes in reverse. Magic and sorcery once ruled in a land of mythical creatures. But then the automobile was invented, along with cell phones, video games, exercise machines and every other every day to day invention known to mankind. Who needs magic anymore?

When two elf brothers, Ian and Barley, voices by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, come upon their deceased father’s magical staff, they realize that as nerdy as he was, he was in fact a wizard. Some exposition allows them one day to revive him and spend only that particular day with him. It’s an opportunity for older brother Barley to reconnect and Ian to meet him. Something goes awry though when dad is only resurrected up to his waste, legs dressed in khakis with chino shoes and black leather belt. Hilarity and adventure ensue as they must embark on a quest to find a precious gem that will complete the resurrection before time runs out and the sun sets.

As the boys hop into Barley’s van called Guinevere. Adventure inspired of the level of The Goonies fare takes place. There are caverns with booby traps, maps and Holland and Pratt give up good vocal chemistry as they sort out their brotherly issues.

Julia Louis Dreyfus is mom and basically doing the typical Pixar mom but she has a great sidekick. Octavia Spenser as Corey the monstrous Manticore who runs a restaurant. To give side story filler, Dreyfus and Spenser are brought in to be on the trail of the boys. They have some good moments.

Onward has good, often funny and sentimental writing from Scanlon along with Keith Bunin and Jason Headley. It’s ironic actually. So many films from Harry Potter to Star Wars to Marvel focus on mysticism and magic that as movie goers we’ve become inundated with the gimmicks. Onward reminds us that ordinary dependence in a more grounded reality can actually lead to adventure too.

I liked it.

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