“Ian Lightfoot” (Tom Holland) lives in a fantasy world, not just in his head but a magical CGI animated world, which is quickly succumbing to modern convenience. Why use magic when it’s easier to switch on a light, fly on a plane or use the cooker to make dinner.
That’s not to say weird stuff happens, unicorns rummage through your bins, your mum’s new beau is half horse and your pet is a dragon, acting like a dog.
Ian is an Elf who lives in a fantasy suburban home shaped like a mushroom with his Elven mother “Laurel” (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and role-playing obsessed older brother “Barley” (Chris Pratt), who owns a beat-up van named “Guinevere”.
Ian and Barley miss their father who died when they were still young, they would do anything to bring him back, if only for one day.
If they could just harness some of the magical powers which Barley fantasizes about in his RPG card sessions.
Once the opportunity unexpectedly arises, the sequence does not go according to plan. The brothers have no choice but to commence a quest to fulfill their destiny, find the magical crystal and complete the spell, which drives the story forward.
The quest takes the brothers on a madcap journey through a mystical and magical land, interspersed with a mixture of fantasy and mundane characters. Miniature biker “Hells Angels”, construction workers and a police patrol driven by a cyclops.
The pair get help or hindrance from various characters along the way, including “Manicore” (Octavia Spencer), a previous wild child waiting for the right motivation to break out of a self induced humdrum existence.
The half character the boys take on their quest, swings from being amusing and sweet to somewhat disturbing depending on the scene. Despite a couple of good laughs, the character never really settles quite right in tone, not surprising when you only have a pair trousers and shoes to relate to.
The story skews younger in the first segment but broadens into a more adult friendly tale as the screenplay expertly works the emotions, with a particularly poignant self awareness sequence towards the closing scene.
As expected, Pixar takes the time to craft a strong story and manages to not populate the film with too many popular cultural references to date quickly. The animation is state of the art, which is now almost a given in these movies.
Pratt and Holland’s voice work is fine, with Pratt in particular hamming it up, clearly enjoying the “Olde English, Knights of the Round Table” vibe.
With genuinely affecting moments in later scenes, this does not break Pixar’s almost perfect run of good movies. However, this feels more packaged than earlier Pixar efforts, which could be attributable to the looming corporate presence of new owner Disney.
Whilst no “Toy Story 3” or “Inside Out“, this is a solid middle of the pack Pixar offering which will delight younger audiences, whilst still providing plenty for adults to enjoy in the latter stages.