Both Holland and Pratt are perfectly cast as their respective characters. While neither role stretches the acting chops of either actor, they manage to use that to their advantage, pouring in all of Holland’s timid, sweet demeanor and Pratt’s boisterous lovability into their characters. Combining these two actors’ voices together creates a believable, brotherly chemistry.
The blending of fantasy with the modern world works excellently as it not only works from a visual perspective, but also from a thematic standpoint. The movie clearly states that the world is the way it is because of convenience and complacency, losing touch with its magical roots. Ian finds himself being insecure and continually failing to stand up for himself. And just as Ian doesn’t remember his father, the world has forgotten about magic. Throughout the film, there are many instances of characters regaining a fantastical element associated with their fantasy pasts, such as the Manticore (Octavia Spencer) who goes from being a restaurant manager whose glory days are behind her to a winged warrior hero. In Ian’s quest to regain his father for a day, he learns of magic and gains the confidence he lacked in the beginning. Ian’s change over the course of the film, feeling both organic and is satisfying. Barley also gets depth and an arc of his own as he remembers only a few memories of his father and has his own heartbreaking reason why he wishes to see his father.The writing also works well beyond the themes and character arcs. The screenwriters masterfully weave setups and payoffs for both comedic and emotional payoffs.
Overall, Onward is a delightful fantasy adventure that is full of emotion and fun. It gives clear and satisfying arcs to the characters and ties their character journeys into the larger themes of the film as presented by the world around them. If you are a fan of the fantasy genre, animation, or well told stories, Onward will have something for you to marvel at.