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* Onward *
Set in a suburban fantasy world, Disney-Pixar's "Onward" introduces two teenage elf brothers who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there. This modest tear-jerker surprised the whole movie business last weekend by opening number one at the US box-office .
ReviewReview LEIGH PAATSCH | heraldsun.com.au Here is an encouraging ray of cinematic sunshine in an ever darkening time for movie lovers everywhere: a new release from the best in the animation business, Pixar. While the actionadventure fantasy Onward will not go down as one of Pixar's greatest productions - it is a distinct comedown after the heights scaled by last year's superb Toy Story 4 - the end results are still overwhelmingly positive. As we have come to learn over the years, second-shelf Pixar is still better than the top-shelf output of most other animation studios. "Long ago, the world was full of wonder," states the narrator of Onward as we are introduced to the unusual setting of the movie. What we see is a fairytale version of suburbia which is anything but wonderful. It's like a modern-day Middle-Earth that has fallen into disrepair. Grubby unicorns roam the streets at night, tipping over bins in search of something to eat. Mermaids have foregone the ocean for the backyard, floating idly in inflatable pools while scrolling through their phones. The half-human-halfhorse police force would rather casually drive to the scene of a crime than break into a full gallop. It is in this ramshackle realm we happen upon the neighbourhood of New Mushroomton, home to brotherly teenage elves Ian and Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt). The boys' father passed away before Ian was even born to his doting mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus ). Barley can remember his dad, but only just. The impact of this loss on what remains of the family is there for all to see. However, on the occasion of Ian's 16th birthday, a chance appears to heal some of that hurt. Ian receives a present left behind for this day from the father he never met. The gift is comprised of a wizard's staff, a magic gem and an incantation. Combine all three correctly, and Ian's dad will return from "the other side" for 24 hours only. Wouldn't you just know it? Ian fails to combine those three elements to his present correctly. So only half of his father materialises. His legs, to be exact. With time running out, Ian and Barley must find another magic gem so they can be briefly reunited with the rest of their much-missed parent. More than 12 hours are wasted before the pair get properly organised. Unusually for a Pixar production, Onward makes a somewhat unremarkable first impression in its opening act, before steadily improving to our expected levels of entertainment excellence by the close. The lift in quality comes once the urgency of Ian and Barley's rushed quest is established, and these two very different siblings (Ian is an everyday teen, while Barley is a loud, out and proud weirdo) finally find some common ground. Landing two big names like Chris Pratt and Tom Holland for the leading voice slots in Onward is not quite the casting coup it should have been. They too need some time to click as a duo. Once they do, it must be said Onward pushes forth towards the kind of honestly earned emotional pay-off that will move and delight viewers of all ages. Director Dan Scanlon (Monsters University) Starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, Julia Louis-Dreyfus , Octavia Spencer
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