Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5
USA, 2020. Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios. Story and Screenplay by Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, Keith Bunin. Cinematography by Sharon Calahan, Adam Habib. Produced by Kori Rae. Music by Jeff Danna, Mychael Danna. Production Design by Noah Klocek. Film Editing by Catherine Apple.
In a fantasy world that is populated by every creature you can think of from Tolkien novels or a game of Dungeons and Dragons, life resembles modern human existence. These creatures once practiced magic, but harnessing electricity turned out to be much easier to manage and they eventually lost their otherworldly powers and became a series of box-mall towns with sleepy suburban neighbourhoods, fast food restaurants and high schools full of insecure teenagers. Young elf Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) has just turned sixteen and his birthday is not looking promising, he has no friends to invite to a party and he is perpetually embarrassed by his older, aimless brother Barley (Chris Pratt). Ian lost his father as a toddler and it’s a source of great longing for him, and his mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) surprises her sons with a very special gift for his birthday: a wizard’s stick that their father left for the two of them before he died, hoping to encourage them to bring the world of magic back to life. It comes with a spell that will allow them to bring their father back from the dead for one whole day, which will allow Ian to finally place a missing piece into his own puzzle; unfortunately, the spell malfunctions and they only bring back half of their dad, from the waist down. Barley, who is into nerdy Sword And Sorcery stuff and knows what to do, tells him they need to go on a quest to find an object that will allow them to finish the spell, but can they do it in time to still spend this day with their father? Rules and reasons are explained quickly and done away with as the adventure gets going with gusto in this delightful and surprisingly touching film, bringing together two alienated brothers as they cross a treacherous landscape in the hopes of healing past family wounds. Octavia Spencer contributes terrific voice work as a Manticore who has left her fire-breathing ways behind to manage a pub, and Tracey Ullman makes a brief appearance as a gremlin pawnbroker who drives a hard bargain.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Animated Feature
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Animated Feature