Trolls: World Tour – Review

Cert – U, Run-time – 1 hour 30 minutes, Directors – Walt Dhorn, David P. Smith

When Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) of the Rock Trolls sets out to destroy all music, except rock, Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) ventures into new realms outside of Pop Village to stop her.

Back in 2016 Trolls taught audiences, mostly under the age of 6, to “find their happy place”. Now, four years later, the fuzzy, intensely-coloured characters – based on the once popular naked, plastic, high-haired miniature figures of the same name – return to the screen, although at this time not quite the big-screen in what has been billed on some posters as the “Happiest. Movie. Ever”. And it certainly seems as if Trolls: World Tour is aiming for that. Opening with now Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) loving her new life as royalty in Pop Village. Everything is upbeat and wonderful as everyone belts out loud pop songs in large scale musical numbers involving almost every single troll in the village – including Branch (Justin Timberlake), who found happiness and his colours at the end of the previous film, despite still be a rather pessimistic character in the sequel.

World Tour very much focuses on Poppy, Branch is sidelined as a supporting character, and almost only seems to be present because he was the lead in the first film. He has a mild storyline of wanting to admit his true feelings to Poppy, something seen in a number of sequels like this – making the world larger instead of look deeper into the one that already existed. In fact much of Trolls: World Tour seems to be based around sub-plots for the convenience of the later stages of the main storyline, or small bursts of ideas to fuel another small burst later in the film. All amongst the backdrop of sugary positivity and music.

Poppy and Branch, alongside Biggie (James Corden) and, what seems to be his pet, Mr Dinkles (Kevin Michel Richardson) – a role that seems to have been increased more than necessary because ‘James Corden’, venture into the other realms, like a stuffed-felt-based version of The Lego Movie – where different genres of music lie. From country and classical to techno and funk. All to warn the Kings and Queens of such areas that Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom) of the Rock Trolls is coming with her Mad Max style legion of dark rockers to obtain all the strings that help to create the different genres of music. Her aim is to be able to put them all together to play a power chord that will get rid of all music except rock, therefore creating an undivided world. Much of the reasons behind this, like a number of elements from the film, stem from cliche – something which this film suffers from a great deal. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of originality within this sequel, however that really isn’t it’s biggest downfall.

The main reason why Trolls: World Tour doesn’t succeed is down to the fact that it takes almost everything that caused a headache in the first film and turns it up to eleven. This might be alright, as was the case with the original film, for those under the age of six or seven, but perhaps not quite for the adults who will have to sit through this with them. The endlessly shouted assertions that everything is alright and happy even gets too much at times. The whole thing almost gets a bit too much and repetitive, especially when fuelled with the world by world nature of the film, with only a short interval of sub-plot to allow for a new ‘set’ to be built and the run-time to be extended.

There are some small, brief glimpses throughout the run-time that World Tour might itself pick up and become something better. Most of these moments lie within the character of Barb, the reasons behind her intentions and simply her actions, alongside the music that she and the Rock Trolls delight in – and her elderly, chair-bound father; played by Ozzy Osbourne, certainly one of the more obscure ‘how did they get them!?’ pieces of casting in a film. Yet none of this is enough to distract from the overall nature of the film, which almost seems to scream positivity in the hope that it’ll be able to distract from the cliche even for just a minute or two. And while there are moments that don’t feature mass amounts of glitter the film quickly reverts to it’s original, overly-exuberant style. If there was more to Trolls: World Tour – as was the case with the first film – then it might work and be more bearable, however it’s rather similar in its style and tone. Trying to force multiple messages through, all of which are almost obvious from the start, and heavily relying on the glaringly bright and colourful nature of the loud musical numbers, this sequel is more of a slight-step down, and certainly more of a headache, than an improvement on the first.

Even if there does seem to be a hint more story, amongst various small sub-plots and ideas, than the first Trolls: World Tour is still predominantly filled with loud, glaringly glittery and exuberant headache-inducing musical numbers that might work for young kids, but perhaps not for those who have to watch it with them, or anyone else.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Four Kids And It – Review

Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 49 minutes, Director – Andy De Emmony

When a couple (Paula Patton and Matthew Goode) decide to go on holiday to introduce each others children to each other the kids discover a magical creature (Michael Caine) in the sand that proceeds to grant them various wishes.

Back in 2004 E Nesbit’s novel Five Children And It received a mixed, yet somewhat sub-par, when it was adapted for the big screen. Now, it’s the turn of Jacqueline Wilson’s sort of sequel to get the film treatment. Instead of a quaint countryside setting to observe and play around in with no technology in sight this modern take shows a world of phones, internet celebrities, pop music and frequent use of the Nintendo Switch. However, central protagonist Ros (Teddie Malleson-Allen) relies on books to keep her occupied, her dream is to be an author. The only other dream she seems to have is to reunite her separated parents – an idea pushed further by the people she finds herself surrounded by.

It’s the meeting that Ros and her brother have with the children of her father’s (Matthew Goode) girlfriend (Paula Patton) that begins to bring more stress and worry to her life, something which seems to be reciprocated by her opposite, Maudie (Ashley Aufderheide). As is to be expected the children don’t get on, something which only goes lightly noticed by their parents, who are too busy trying to get it off to notice anything else. Thus allowing the minors to go unoccupied to the beach where they discover a pale, hairy, easily disgruntled sand troll (somehow voiced by Michael Caine). The sand troll – who looks very much like E.T. took a tragically rough turn after leaving Elliott – reveals to the children that he can grant them any wish they want. And of course they use their wishes for their own good, despite a joke about world peace – “finally!” proclaims the creature as he begins to cast the wish before being stopped so that the children can have their real wish.

As the group begin to bond and get to know each other more Ros’ aims are still based around her own personal family life – trying to contact her Mum, who’s apparently at university, in the hope that she can get her to just meet her Dad, despite the fact that such attempts never quite work. As the storyline trundles along these tracks everything seems rather formulaic. Despite the possibilities that the film could have with the titular creature that the plot relies on there’s not a great deal done to break any barriers within Sky Cinema’s latest offering. Everything simply falls rather flat, bordering on being episodic with limp idea after limp idea. Leading to a slow feature that will likely, as has been the case with most Sky Cinema features so far, be quickly forgotten and pass to the back of the catalogue of films available on the service.

Amongst everything that’s going on the film even manages to throw Russel Brand in as antagonistic figure Tristan Trent. The owner of a grand house near to where the two families are staying. For many years he’s been aiming to find the wish granting creature to use it for his own personal gain – somehow his wish to be rich is wrong, but the children can easily wish for fame and attention. Brand’s performance certainly isn’t the hammiest of the film – and some might view him as what Jim Carrey was to Sonic The Hedgehog, while others might simply see him as just another performance in the film, in a number of ways it could simply come down to how you view Russell Brand. However, for the most part, almost every single performance is rather overdone, as if each cast member, including Caine, is just waiting for the paycheck so that they can jump into their next project – almost as if director Andy De Emmony – whose previous experience heavily lies in TV comedies such as Red Dwarf, Spitting Image and Father Ted; potentially explaining the slightly jumpy and episodic nature that the film has – and also wanted to get things in the can quickly so that he could move on himself.

There’s certainly a lot missing from Four Kids And It, including a fair deal of charm, wit and heart – meaning that the humour lacks, although most of the humour seems to rely on Patton and Goode’s adult characters never getting a moment of privacy so that they can fulfil their own ‘wishes’. And with a story that never truly comes together it simply falls, feeling rather basic and uninspired. It’s certainly not the film that’ll help to pass the time during lockdown and self-isolation – especially with the family.

The only thing that doesn’t quite feel underdone about Four Kids And It are the handful of overdone performances that lie throughout it. This is a rather lacking and uninspired feature. Despite the fantasy nature and potential, nothing is ever truly lived up to, leaving this feeling rather dull and in the end it falls flat.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Just A Little Bit Random Online Film Quiz

This is a place to find updates about the film quizzes that can be found on the Just A Little Bit Random Twitch channel. Listed below is the date and time of the next quiz, and the answer sheet for it. Teams are welcome to each quiz, as well as those on there own, or in duos, etc. Also listed below are the results of the previous quiz. This page will be updated whenever a new quiz is announced/ is coming up. Make sure to keep checking back to this page if you want to take part in a future/ upcoming quiz!

Next quiz – TBC

Answer sheet –

Previous quiz results (Sunday 27th March – Awards season quiz)
2nd – My 20 Year Oscar Hell

1st – Outliers Assemble

Just A Little Bit Random Self-Isolation Film Quiz Results

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Just A Little Bit Random Self-Isolation Film Quiz (again, there’s probably a better title out there somewhere). Genuinely very much appreciated and I hope you enjoyed the quiz. Thank you for all the kind comments so far too! They are truly greatly appreciated.

I may do more of these at some point in the future, so make sure to follow the Just A Little Bit Random Twitch page, or my Twitter, or just keep checking back on this blog site to find out when/ if another one is coming along. I’ll also try to make it easier (and definitely shorter), sorry about the difficulty and length issues with this one.

But, for now here are the full results of the quiz:

Honourable mention – Fried_Gold, who wasn’t able to properly send across answers

8th – Dave
and Oskar Gets Real

7th – Iconic Film Duo
and Owl Mum

6th – Leese Geese

5th – Play With My Pussies

4th – You’re A Qizzard Harry

3rd – The Pearsons

2nd – My 20 Year Quiz Hell
and Only Me!

1st – The Mole People

Thank you to everyone for taking part and congratulations to all the winners! Hopefully “see” you again if another one of these goes ahead. Thanks again!

Just A Little Bit Random Self-Isolation Film Quiz

Amongst a number of not-quite-projects that will likely never see the light of day one thing that I’ve had sat around for a while is a film quiz. As the world gradually gets put on lockdown and most people work from home and self-isolate I’ve decided to finally do something with this quiz.

On Sunday 29th March at 8pm (UK time) over on the Just A Little Bit Random Twitch channel a variety of film related topics will be covered and tested. Anyone can take part, even in a team – thanks to the wonders of Skype, Discord, Facebook and various other platforms that offer some form of video call or voice chat. If in a team you only need one person to fill out answers via this answer sheet.

While I can’t exactly ensure masses of quality this should still, hopefully, be a good time for all. Something to distract from the potential boredom of self-isolation, and for some the loneliness of it.

So, feel free to join and take part, no matter how many people are in your team, on Sunday 29th March at 8pm for the Just A Little Bit Random Self-isolation Film Quiz (there’s definitely a better, shorter title out there somewhere). Hopefully “see” you there!

Helen O’Hara – Women In The Film Industry Interview

Image Credit – Yasmine Gateau (Originally for Variety)

Film journalist and writer Helen O’Hara kindly joins me for a follow-up interview to one held two years ago to talk about the change we’ve seen in that time when it comes to the representation, acknowledgement and treatment of women in the film industry. Alongside what Hollywood might look like after Harvey Weinstein’s 23 year prison sentence, how to change the look of the representation and diversity of awards nominees and much more!

Helen is a frequent writer for Empire Magazine and can be heard regularly on the Empire Film Podcast.

She can also be found via her Twitter.

If you want to listen to the songs that Helen requested then they can be found by clicking below;
Love On Top – Beyoncé
Fooled Around And Fell In Love – Elvin Bishop

The Hunt – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 29 minutes, Director – Craig Zobel

12 strangers find themselves in the middle of nowhere as they are hunted down by people who they initially believed were just part of a conspiracy theory.

The Hunt was initially meant to be released six months ago, back in September of 2019, however after a number of mass shootings it was removed from release slates and seemingly pushed to the back of a shelf. Watching the film it seems like its depiction of gun violence, and hunting humans for sport, isn’t the only controversial element of it that caused it to be delayed. Much of the narrative is politically charged, centring on 12 innocent blue-collar strangers who find themselves being hunted down by what they see as the liberal elite a great deal of the dialogue revolves around these ideas of American politics. The feud between two completely opposite ends of the political spectrum.

The liberals are obsessed with making sure to always use the correct pronouns and politically correct terms, the diversity of the people who respond to them on Twitter and using right-wing politics against the people who believe in them, particularly the way that they seemingly view the second amendment (about the freedom to carry firearms). Meanwhile the central figures of the film are shown to be racist, conspiracy theory spreading and believing (one often claims about how he has a podcast in which he spoke about “the manor game” in which the characters find themselves a part of) and, as the liberal elites call them, “deplorable”. Throughout the entire run-time the film obsesses over trying to show an attempted hyperbolic view of both sides of an argument that never really properly starts, or finishes, in the film. And one of the biggest issues that comes from this is the fact that it seems to be played for laughs that are never really funny. The film never touches the lines of satire either, which could possibly help, but instead it just seems to try to be a politically charged horror-comedy that never properly takes flight.

Betty Gilpin leads the cast as tough fighter Crystal, labelled Snowball by the attackers. As those around her are rapidly killed off one by one she manages to survive and fight back, using her own skills and initiative to survive. While there are some decent moments of action, especially with Gilpin at the forefront the film seems to be too obsessed with showing the impact and gory detail of the immense bloodshed (while still remaining in the boundaries of a 15 rating, when some were expecting an 18, although still showing far more than Tarantino’s 18 rated Once Upon A Time In Hollywood) to actually focus on some fast-paced action, the brief glimpses that we do get of such are relatively good.

The film tries to show a pretty starry cast; including the likes of Emma Roberts, Ike Barinholtz and Hilary Swank, however none ever get the time to actually show a proper performance due to a limited amount of screen-time. While initially we begin to get some form of balance between characters in the first few minutes, however as everything vanishes and the rather thin “plot” begins to unveil there’s either constant jumping from character to character as if having a new lead and focus every five minutes until finally giving in and following Gilpin as she tries to work out who and what she can trust, if anything. Within this there could be some form of interest, but because of the personalities of stereotypical “redneck”/ Republican characters, as they are genuinely credited, ‘Don???’ (Wayne Duvall) and ‘(Shut The F**k Up) Gary’ (Ethan Suplee) again the film drags itself down by having to make literally everything political.

Yes, it could be said there there is some form of balance. Both sides are shown in a negative light with awful personalities. However, having to spend time with these horrible, overemphasised people, even if the film is only 89 minutes, just isn’t enough. The humour doesn’t land, the action doesn’t seem focused enough and overall the full entertainment value doesn’t come in. There are, admittedly, some moments that do manage to break in and create some slight enjoyment. But, those are soon broken by the same old formula.

Maybe the fact that the film seems to have worn its negative responses like a medal of honour, the poster for the new release of the film displayed many negative reviews and quotes saying how harsh and bloody the violence is alongside a quote saying “the most talked about film of the year is one that no one’s actually seen”. There could be something more to The Hunt if it had a few more layers and potentially a bit more of a deeper plot. However with it’s poor dialogue, character design and general idea there’s not a lot that can break through. While the action does show some promise it decides to focus too much on gore and blood rather than the action itself, apart from in one or two scenes which are the highlights of the film, to be overly worthwhile and satisfying. While it might entertain and amuse fans of frequent, intense full-blown bloody horror then this might entertain and engage, however this film certainly isn’t for everyone.

The Hunt’s hyperbolic political nature and dialogue isn’t it’s biggest problem, it’s jumpy nature and lack of detail also get in the way. While some action works there’s a lot that focuses too much that dwells on blood and gore rather than the action. This is a film for fans of high gore horror, but not a great deal of others.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

My Spy – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 39 minutes, Director – Peter Segal

A CIA spy (Dave Bautista) trains a nine year old (Chloe Coleman) after she discovers his secret mission

The tough-guy trains/ looks after kids story has been done many times before. A big action star is put into a fish-out-of-water style tale as the tough-guy role is paired with a young child. My Spy is, in a number of ways, no different. Dave Bautista plays JJ, a CIA spy who, after a mission goes slightly wrong, is relegated to observing a mother and daughter in Chicago instead of going around the world to combat terrorists. The reason for the pair being observed being that they are the relations of the one man who got away from JJ’s mission-gone-wrong (Greg Bryk). All that he needs is one more weapon that, when paired with the one he already has, has the ability to destroy an entire city.

However, it’s not long until JJ and partner Bobbi (Kristen Schaal), a spy hopeful constantly pushed back to what’s known as “the van” observing what happens and telling the spies what to do, are discovered by the girl that they are observing. Sophie (Chloe Coleman) threatens to show her Mum (Parisa Fitz-Henley) recorded proof of what’s actually going on with their new upstairs neighbours unless she can get something in return for not doing so. It’s all pretty standard stuff.

Initially JJ takes her ice skating, something which he ‘amusingly’ can’t do himself, so that she can meet up with people from school that she’s trying to be friends with. Overtime Sophie begins to use JJ for more things, bringing him into school for a Parents And Special Friends Day, where he reveals some of his military and CIA past to great reception from both the kids and adults, and gradually making Sophie one of the popular kids. And, of course, it’s not long until JJ begins to train his growing nine year old counterpart in some of the ways of spying, something which Bobbi would prefer is taught to her, or nobody at all – especially as everything that’s happening goes against the mission in the first place.

All of this takes centre stage, at points you forget that there’s actually a villain or a reason for JJ being there to watch the two-member family. Bryk’s villain appears intermittently but most of the time rarely and briefly. However, once the humour begins to start and get rolling this doesn’t really seem to matter that much. One of the reasons you forget about this detail that’s mostly key in the third act is because you begin to get invested within the central relationship. The humour starts and as the gags have a greater success rate the film as a whole becomes more enjoyable. The first 20-25 minutes as the film seems to be filled with various odd references that fail to raise a laugh and give the impression of something tired and lacking, Notting Hill and Iron Man 2 are both referenced in the first 3 or 4 minutes; another line makes reference to dancing being “like the wedding at the end of Shrek”. It’s such lines that even the editors seem to want to get rid of as they immediately cut to either a new action or line of dialogue pretty quickly or just jump to a new scene entirely, knowing that some of these lines would possibly seem outdated or simply just tired in even a film released five or more years ago.

In fact the turning point of the film is when the highlights that are the characters of Todd (Noah Danby) and Carlos (Devere Rogers). Carlos being the talkative figure, although most of the time relaying what Todd has apparently said, although the character is shown to only ever grunt. There’s something about the pair that when the punchlines arrive, although they are the centre of only a couple of running jokes, that leads to the humour being brought in that most of the audience seems to react to. And once this humour is brought in it seems that the screenwriters click and realise what they need to do. Continuing along slightly similar lines with the humour, although just about avoiding being a one note film.

Much like the presence of the bad guy the amount of action present in the film is relatively minimal. yet enough to warrant the film a 12 rating (despite still being a family film – amidst some, as the BBFC puts it, “moderate bad language”). However, when it comes to the big finale of the film, which still features a fair bit of cliche, there is still a fair bit to like and enjoy. It’s done well enough to avoid feeling cheesy and have some mild entertainment value. Topping off what has been a fairly decent and enjoyable film. Yes, there are some bumps throughout it and the start is certainly uneven and begins to indicate something far too conventional and unfunny for its own good. But, as the film goes on and the humour develops it begins to pick up the pace, recognise what it needs to do to get better and just about fulfils that. Making for a decent family film that passes the time well enough and manages to just about subvert expectations. And it’s all down to that central relationship in which the viewer becomes mildly invested in.

While it starts off as the same cliche tough-guy – young child buddy film My Spy gradually turns into a funnier and more entertaining feature. Bringing the viewer in to the central relationship and providing them with enough humour from almost every character to avoid boredom from this surprisingly amusing family film.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Little Joe – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 45 minutes, Director – Jessica Hausner

A plant designed to make people happy begins to affect the brains of those creating and breeding it.

The best way to describe the gist of Little Joe is Little Shop Of Horrors meets Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. The titular Little Joe is a plant designed to bring happiness to those that smell it. However, the plant itself cannot breed, it’s sterile. So, because of this it finds a way to infect the minds of those that smell it; beginning to control them, making them happy and making the plant the priority in all their lives. Spreading from person to person as the feared plant controls those that it’s inside the minds of to share it with other people.

However, you can’t tell when someone has been infected by the plant, their behaviour remains mostly the same, despite one or two changes in relation to how they all seem to almost worship it and the success that it has; all building up to releasing it to the public at a flower fair. As this event gets closer there’s no denying that there are fine elements of tension that build up as the plant begins to dominate the minds of the breeders that care for it almost like a child. One prominent breeder being Alice (Emily Beecham), one of the leaders of the Little Joe programme, named after her own son Joe (Kit Connor); who the plant takes control of early in the film. Alice, despite not being taken over by the bright red straw-like top of the flower, sees the good in the plant and believes that it can be of great benefit to those around her. However, when co-worker Bella (Kerry Fox) begins to speak against what she is working on after a series of negative events and interactions involving her normally trusted and calm dog, Alice gradually begins to doubt her own work, and sees the strange behaviour in her co-workers.

None more so than Chris (Ben Whishaw). Alice initially has a close working relationship with Chris, something which her son Joe believes could be something more with the way that Chris behaves around her. As Whishaw’s initially quiet character becomes more outspoken about his dedication towards Little Joe Alice begins to notice some strange behaviour. Through such events, and the fact that we only see a small amount of people smell the flower there’s a fair deal of unease and slight tension in the film. Alice faces a dilemma both at work and in her personal life. Is she just making things up, or seeing things that aren’t there? Or is she slowly beginning to feel a distance with her son, amongst her colleagues, who is changing as he grows up, after all she is spending a lot more time at work.

Throughout the film the words “you need to talk to it” and “you can hear it talk back” are repeated by a number of different characters. The fact that the plant is treated as a living, breathing human with a mind of its own – which in a number of ways it does have – adds to the creepy and unsettling nature of the film. When mixed with the loud and tense effect of the lightly used score and music, which at some points does create an effective jump acre by itself when it just seems to start at the best possible point, there is certainly an effect when it comes to the horror element of this weird little independent sci-fi horror that will probably go under the radar for many people, which is a fair shame.

While the horror isn’t always present, which seems to be the intention of director and co-writer, alongside Géraldine Bajard, Jessica Hausner, there is certainly an eerie nature during a number of scenes, which while not exactly intense is effective. There’s something about the precise and rather clean direction of Hausner that adds to the overall air and feel that the film has. Taking time to linger on certain elements, creating a somewhat slow and steady pace that also helps to put the viewer into the mindset of many of the characters and feel a further sense of unease; while also allowing for the gradual pace of the plants spread to be felt in an almost sustained way.

As mentioned there’s a seemingly clean air to Hausner’s direction, something which when you see the slight twitches in the personalities of those that have been possessed by the plant you almost begin to question whether they have been taken over or not, even if only for a brief amount of time. What the film never does is make you doubt Alice. You know she’s right, even if she is doubting herself. You know that those around her are ‘wrong’, or at least have been taken over, that’s never denied or doubted. There’s a straight direction in which the film travels along, clear and direct. And this all leads to a bold and interesting final 15-20 minutes. The tension that’s played with throughout coming back and creating even more mild fear as to what could happen if this plant does eventually get released into the world. This is something that carries throughout most of the film. And while not quite present in every scene it’s definitely there every now and then, creating a particular feeling for the film as the tone doesn’t quite change from scene to scene, but the feeling does. Little Joe is certainly a unique film and it’s possibly not going to be something that everyone’s going to like. But, for what it is it’s a rather good cross between genres with some mild unease and great use of score and music thrown in for good measure.

Little Shop Of Horrors meets Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Little Joe is an interesting blend of genres. Lined with good performances and wonderful use of effective music this is a very clean, direct film that while varying in style and feeling at some points certainly has a mild sense of appreciated tension and fear.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Onward – Review

Cert – U, Run-time – 1 hour 42 minutes, Director – Dan Scanlon

Two brothers (Tom Holland, Chris Pratt) go on a quest to bring back their dad for just one day.

It’s clear from the second the audience enters the board-game inspired fantasy realm of Pixar’s latest feature that establishes it as something very different from what the studio has produced in the past. While all the standard Pixar elements are there this almost feels like a rather un-Pixar film, however, this is not to say that the quality is anything away from what the animation giant has offered in the past. There’s something about the almost mythical style of the world in which the film is set that helps to provide it with a feeling similar to that of a number of 80’s classics, especially the likes of Time Bandits and Labyrinth.

Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) are two elf brothers living in a world of pixies, unicorns, dragons, centaurs, cyclopes and gelatinous cubes. Ian has just turned 16 and is looking to turn his life around, become more confident, socialise more and pluck up the courage to invite people to a party. However, Barley is a much more confident, unashamedly loud figure. His life revolves around board games such as Quest Of Yore – a role-playing game that he claims is based on the factual history of the world in which the film is set in. It’s this game that helps to lead him and Ian on their quest to find a phoenix gem that will help to cast a visitation spell to bring their dad back for just one day. The catch is that they’ve already brought back half of their father, the waist down.

Barley has a limited amount of memories about his Dad, whereas younger brother Ian has none, his aim is to just get to meet his Dad just once in his life. It’s this that very much creates the emotional core of the film, and it’s also this that proves this to be a Pixar film. While Onward isn’t exactly the big punch that some might expect from the studio that brought audiences Up, Inside Out, Monsters Inc and Toy Story 3 there are still one or two empathetic beats, especially towards the end of the film.

What strikes most about Onward is it’s design and humour. The animation is, as expected, a high quality. The studio that helped to master hair and water stands out now with realistic looking sweat on mythical creatures! This is mostly noticed in the first few scenes of the film, as the plot is gradually forming bit by bit. It’s said that sometimes if you’re noticing how great the animation is you’re not properly focusing on the film and the plot; this certainly isn’t always the case. But, in the case of Onward this is part of a problem. There are still some chuckles and good ideas, but as a whole the start of the film isn’t the most engaging thing, it’s relatively average. However, as the plot begins to take pace and the road-trip element of the film begins things begin to get better, and more enjoyable.

The true spirit of adventure and exploration that the film takes great pride in exploring, with its characters of all shapes and sizes. The various references to classic fantasy films – a restaurant displays a sign declaring “now serving 2nd breakfast” – and board games all help to further fuel the energy and creative nature of the film. Through the various landscapes of motorways, run-down taverns and caves there’s a lot that the viewer experiences throughout the journey, and the design of each setting is highly detailed. All of this happens while the central themes and ideas, which while fairly simple, are never forgotten. There’s a fair deal of heart about the film, and a clear passion for the setting and inspirations from the creators, and even a number of the cast members.

Aside from the road-trip that the brothers, and the bottom half of their father, go on one of the most entertaining ideas that the film presents is that of the boys mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) travelling behind them with the assistance of The Manticore (Octavia Spencer – who sounds as if she’s having delightful fun voicing the character), who claims that without her help the central duo will unleash a curse that will lead them to not be able to meet their dad, and could put their own lives in danger. This is as close to a villain that the film has. While the idea of the threat lingers, and in some scenes helps to escalate the fantastical nature of the piece. Yet, the lack of an actual villain, or even villainous presence, helps the film. It doesn’t exactly feel fresh, but it definitely allows for the tone of adventure to break through even more, and allows for more concentration on the central characters.

Onward is a film that revels in its basis. Paying homage to fantasy films and games that inspire it, and allowing them to fuel the creativity and imagination of the basis of the film. Whether exploring the various mythical creatures or the magic that lines of the film there’s a lot to like. While it takes a bit of time for everything to piece together and the road-trip to start once it does the plot, and the clear fun that the cast are having voicing these colourful and well-designed characters, help to bring the audience into the world of the film. A fantastical land rooted deeply in detail and thought, that never distract from the plot once it starts. The heart and humour are there, and while the tears aren’t present the finished product is certainly a worthwhile effort for all ages. Sometimes for everyone to enjoy no matter where they stand on fantasy, and also a great way to hopefully introduce kids to classic 80’s titles in a similar vein.

The tears don’t exactly flow in the emotional moments of Onward, but that doesn’t stop the adventure from being a funny, enjoyable and excellently designed one. Calling back to the likes of Labyrinth and Time Bandits this is certainly something different from Pixar, but it’s still a success.

Rating: 4 out of 5.