Two brothers find magic in this cute animated fantasy
In the olden days, magic was a hard-won skill that could be used to provide wonder and creature comforts. Elves, trolls, centaurs and a whole host of magical creatures banded together to learn it. Then, someone invented electricity.
A few centuries later, the magical world looks a whole lot like this one—everyone’s got smart phones, cars and modern conveniences. Unicorns are now basically raccoons that get in trash cans and dragons are cute little pets. The old ways are a distant memory with magical shrines bulldozed to make way for highways.
Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland: Dolittle) is an elf who doesn’t believe in magic. He’s an awkward kid just hoping to fit in. His only wish in the world is to know more about his father, who died before he was born. He’s lost and utterly in need of guidance.
Also in need of guidance is Ian’s brother Barley (Chris Pratt: Avengers: Endgame), who is obsessed with a fantasy game called Quest Lore. He spends his days pretending magic is real and embarrasses his little brother by shouting about sacred spells when he picks Ian up at school.
On Ian’s 16th birthday, his mother gives him a magic staff and a spell that will bring his father back for one day. When the spell goes awry, Ian and Barley must find a way to fix the incantation so they can reunite with their father.
Pixar is known for producing truly brilliant emotionally rich films; Onward is a charming enough film, but it lacks the depth and attention to detail found in most of their fare.
Still, there’s a lot to like in this colorful, fun film. There are clever sight gags galore. Pratt is brash and ebullient to a fault while Holland is adorably awkward and sweet. The real scene-stealer in this animated fantasy though is the Manticore (Octavia Spencer: Dolittle). As a former adventurer turned restauranteur, the Manticore is the perfect symbol for this tamed world. Once fierce and feared, she’s now desperate to get the cheese sticks to table two before she gets a bad Yelp review.
A light, sweet romp that should be fun for the whole family, Onward is in the middle of the pack as far as most of the Pixar catalog goes. If you’re in the mood for an inventive take on the fantasy genre, this should be well worth the ticket.
Good Fantasy Animation * PG * 102 mins.
Soldier Ray (Vin Diesel) is shocked to discover he has been revived in a lab after his death. He is now Bloodshot, a super-soldier with superhuman healing abilities and strength. While the government wants to use him for dangerous missions, Ray is only interested in finding the man who killed his wife. Yet he doubts his memories.
Personally, I only find Diesel tolerable when he sticks to saying I am Groot in various forms. If mumbling tough guys and half-baked plots are your thing, Bloodshot should be your type of movie.
Prospects: Dim * PG-13 * 109 mins.
When her husband of 29 years announces he’s leaving her, Grace (Annette Bening) is set adrift. She must come to terms with the reality of her marriage and find a way to move on.
A drama about a woman rebuilding her life, Hope Gap isn’t exactly traversing new territory. Still, Bening is a wonderful actress who will no doubt sink her teeth into this meaty role.
Prospects: Flickering * PG-13 * 100 mins.
Twelve strangers wake up in a field and try to figure out just how on Earth they got there. Before they get too far, the shots ring out. It turns out the group is being hunted by bored rich people looking for a thrill.
Postponed after two mass shootings, Universal is finally releasing The Hunt. A pitch-black satire, this should be either a brutally funny romp, or a ham-fisted attempt at social commentary.
Prospects: Flickering * R * 89 mins.