Will Onward make it into the Pixar top ten? No. Can this animated film make you laugh and cry at the quest of two half orphans to see their dead father for just one more minute? Oh yes!
For 25 years, Pixar has excelled at making computer animated films. Many of them were instant classics that touch and transport young and old. I'm thinking of the four Toy Story films, WALL·E, Up, and Inside Out, but you may want to add The Incredibles, Coco, or Finding Nemo. Onward is not in that league, but can we expect that every time? This film is also worth your time, money, and attention.
The only question is whether the depicted world and the plot are mutually enhancing. They do tolerate each other so it is not of any great concern. The setting is a fairy-tale world that has evolved with time. Elves and other fairy-tale creatures have swapped magic, which turned out to be difficult to control, for the ease and comfort of modern technology. Smartphones and cars are more user-friendly than flying broomsticks and magic wands.
On the sixteenth birthday of the youngest, two brothers are given a magic wand that is supposed to enable them to see their father, who died many years earlier, for one day. The magic is literally only half successful. Only the bottom half of their father appears. To make the top half appear, which is quite important if you want to catch up, they need a gemstone. The fearless older brother, who is obsessed with old magic, games that are not dissimilar to Dungeons & Dragons, and hard-rock outfits, is convinced that a quest is the solution to their problem. Their adventure gives the insecure, not-yet-of-age but talented younger brother a chance to blossom.
The film is rarely surprising, never boring, and respectably funny most of the time. At the very end, director Dan Scanlon (Monsters University) suddenly shifts into a higher gear and you are genuinely moved by the fraternal bond that cushions the father's absence. A below average Pixar is still an above average film.