Onward (4 stars)


Chris Pratt and Tom Holland lend their voices to Pixar's loveable latest

Marvel's Star Lord and Spider-Man – better known as Chris Pratt and Tom Holland – reteam on the big screen, lending their voices to elf brothers Barley and Ian Lightfoot in Pixar's fantasy adventure Onward, directed and co-written by Monsters University's Dan Scanlon. It's Pixar's loveliest film in a while, with a stronger narrative than Toy Story 4, more humour than Incredibles 2 and as much heart as Coco.

It's set in a town called New Mushroomton, in a world once full of magic and fancy where the invention of electricity and modern conveniences has meant that all the mythical creatures – merpeople, fairies, wizards and the like – don't use their powers anymore, with the magical ways of the past long forgotten. The centaurs no longer gallop – they drive, unicorns are now grumpy scavengers, and lightning spells have been replaced by light bulbs.

When his mum Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gives 16-year-old Ian a present from his late father, who died before he was born, the gift turns out to be a wizard's staff and magical gem. It comes with a visitation spell that could return Ian and Barley's dad to them for 24 precious hours. Of course, the spell doesn't go completely to plan and, in an attempt to make it right, the brothers embark on a quest to retrieve a second gem in Barley's beloved van 'Gwiniver'. Their only guide is a Dungeons & Dragons-style game that Barley loves and insists is based on real history; so begins an adventure that is part buddy comedy, and part poignant story of two wildly different siblings who both long for their dad.

As you'd expect from Pixar, there are lots of fun sight gags mixed in with the adventure (the Hells Angels biker sprites are a hoot), memorable characters like The Manticore (voiced vigorously by Octavia Spencer) that kids will love, and neat twists that keep the story speeding along, as well as nods to movies like the Indiana Jones saga that will amuse adults and children alike.

Meanwhile, the fantasy world that Ian and Barley inhabit is as beautifully realised as Monsters, Inc.'s Monstropolis or Coco's Land of the Dead; there are so many clever and enjoyable details you won't be able to take them all in without a repeat viewing. And, as with the best of Pixar, this is about so much more than just the central quest. It shows real sensitivity to the challenges of growing up as Ian navigates life as an awkward teen – including a terrific sequence when the nervous learner-driver has to merge with motorway traffic for the first time – and there are some moving moments about family that tug hard at the heartstrings and will no doubt lead to more than a few tears. Delightful stuff.

General release from Fri 6 Mar.


  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 1h 52min
  • U
  • Directed by: Dan Scanlon
  • Cast: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Octavia Spencer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Ratzenberger
  • UK release: 6 March 2020

Adventure set in a fantasy world which has lost its magic due to a reliance on technology.