screenplay by Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, Keith Bunin
directed by Dan Scanlon
by Walter Chaw Onward is notable not because it features Disney/Pixar's first LGBTQ character (a cop--Jesus, you guys--voiced by Lena Waithe), but because it's the family-friendly studio's first stoner comedy. Dan Scanlon's follow-up to his middling Monsters University is an unholy amalgam of Detroit Rock City and Weekend at Bernie's that finds two elf brothers, Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt), going on a quest to resurrect the top half of their dead dad's body for the one magical day they've conjured for him via an ancient spell and a "phoenix crystal," the double for which serves as the film's exhausted MacGuffin after they squander the first one. The setting is an industrialized world where there was once magic; as technology became easier than memorizing spells and perfecting belief, magic was left to lie fallow, just waiting for a winsome young elf with father and confidence issues to reintroduce it to the world. You can read this a few ways. The way I'm choosing to interpret "magic" is as a metaphor for the American progressive movement, which died at the end of the Sixties with a series of assassinations. If we lay this over Onward, then the film becomes a call to action for progressives in this country to rally after decades of being buried under the inequities of late capitalism.