March 29, 2020 – This is one of the last movies I saw before the local theaters closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It took me a while to get around to writing this review because it, and everything else besides the pandemic, have faded into the background. Look for this entertaining, upbeat animated film when it comes out on video, which may be pretty soon.
Like other Pixar-Disney films, this one is focused on family relationships, mainly the relationship between two elf brothers, the bookish, geeky Ian Lightfoot, and his big, fun-loving older brother, Barley. Ian has always felt abandoned after the death of his father when he was an infant. Barley, who is old enough to remember his father, seems better adjusted, but it turns out he has some emotional scars as well.
On Ian's 16th birthday, his mother, Laurel, gives him a wizard's staff that belonged to his father, along with a message from him. The message indicates that the staff, along with a rare gem and a magic spell can bring Ian's father back to life for one day. Barley, who is an expert in magic spells, is unable to make the magic work, but it turns out that Ian has the gift.
Ian accidently activates the spell, but it is broken half way through, resulting in only the bottom half of their father coming back to life. In order to complete the spell, Ian and Barley have to undertake a journey to find another magic gem to complete the spell to bring their father all the way back before the end of the day.
The two brothers, who are about as different as two brothers can be, have to learn to work together to complete their magical quest and bring their father all the way back before time runs out. For Ian, this is a coming of age story. He has to learn to be braver and more assertive than he ever has been in order to complete the task. Barley, who seems to be kind of a slacker, turns out to be smarter than he looks.
This story follows the standard Pixar playbook, with strong characters and a deft blend of humor, pathos and a strong moral message about empowerment, acceptance and trust of others. This story takes place in a world where magic was once common, but has since largely been replaced by technology. There is probably a message in that, too.
This movie also features the usual Pixar technical competence and some lovely animation. This is a fine family film, as one expects from Pixar-Disney. If you missed it in the theater, maybe it will be released on video streaming or disk soon. This film rates a B.
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