Director Dan Scanlon (Monsters University) leads us forward in this animated fantasy crossover tale of two brothers with one last chance to fill the void they've felt for years. Working with Jason Headley (Bad Idea Gone Wrong) and Keith Bunin (Antlers), Scanlon's script teaches some great lessons that most kids will relate to.
Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) are the Lightfoot brothers - a pair of elf siblings who couldn't be more different. Ian is shy, reserved and afraid of everything. Barley is happiest when he's on an adventure, whether it's in his fantasy play or during trouble in town. But everything changes on Ian's sixteenth birthday when they receive a gift left for them by their late father - an employee who can return it to them within 24 hours. Unfortunately, the magic goes wrong, so the two must go on a quest to complete the spell before time runs out to see their father one last time.
The coming of age story is difficult, with several moments that feel like unnecessary filler. It has a stable beginning, middle and end, developing entirely over the course of the story. Best of all, there are lessons about friendship, family, loyalty, love and self-belief, in scenarios that both children and adults can thoroughly enjoy. An added bonus is that they are all neatly wrapped up in a fun and interesting fantasy setting with modernized mythical creatures. This feature makes the characters feel fresher than many other animated films.
Scanlon knows how to make a children's film work, and he knows how to make actors work for a children's film. Holland is the right combination of youth and neuroticism. Pratt, a veteran of self-assured swagger wrapped around insecurities, gives another solid performance with this type of character. United, they are almost flawless, like brothers.
Pixar has such a neat framed style by now that the only flaw is consistency - some scenes move too quickly to keep up. Apart from this, the animation is crisp and clean.
The film's most significant flaw is its inability to explain the plot to an audience too young to read. Ian refers to lists several times, and what is on them is not always read aloud. Those below the reading level will miss some important components of the story, especially the ending. Since this is a children's film, this seems like a huge oversight.
«Forward» is an entertaining film with great lessons that can appeal to any age, but better for older readers. It's exciting without being too scary, and it's sure to make viewers laugh, leaving them feeling like believing in yourself is no fairy tale.