Why are the pixies a bunch of aggressive gangsters who are always pissed off? Perhaps they have the same problem as chihuahuas do: nobody respects them or takes them seriously since they're small and dainty (like the elf who condescendingly says that he didn't see them), so of course they'd have to compensate with attitude and assert their dominance to get by in the rough side of town.
Even in the promotional material, Barley is always seen with a plaster cast on his left arm. One would think this would make it part of the story somehow, with the animators having to work it into every shot. But why give Barley a broken arm without mentioning it in the script? To show how reckless he is! It lends extra weight to his mothers worries when she mentions that hes not afraid of anything. This injury would be fresh in her mind. Barleys cast also serves as a visual metaphor. By the end, Barley healed both physically and emotionally.
Mrs. Lightfoot uses water spray to discipline Blazey, which may also be useful if the dragon accidentally sets something on fire.
According to the film, elves view 16 as "the big one" where people become adults, rather than the standard 18. Suddenly Barley's status as a bit of a loser makes a lot more sense—rather than only being at home for one year longer than normal, he should've moved out three years ago!
This is actually a bit unclear. While the Lightfoot family treats it as such, 16 used to be that in our own world as well in some cultures (Sweet 16, for instance), and all of them are to some degree a Fan of the Past. However, Mrs. Lightfoot also refers to Barley's staying home as "the longest Gap year ever", which could refer to either multiple years or one that just feels very long. Further, Ian continues attending school after his birthday and the Driver's Ed class appears geared to intermediate high school students as in the US.
Wilden's death from a terminal illness is the only way for the premise to work. If he'd died from something sudden and unexpected (like a car accident or heart attack), theres no way he could've had the time and the motive to develop the Visitation Spell in the first place.
While it seems that the whole journey was ultimately unnecessary on the first place, since the map took Ian and Barley in a huge circle back to Ian's school, it makes sense considering that the original map was ancient, so it's possible that the whole area was a dense forest full of monsters and other dangers when the map was originally made, so this journey was a relatively safer way to get to the Phoenix Gem. Besides, if they didn't go on that journey in the first place, they couldn't have picked up the puzzle piece from the raven that lets them unlock the gem.
As it turns out, Barley's "Path of Peril" approach turns out to have saved them all. If they hadn't gone through the journey, Ian wouldn't have developed the magical skills needed to face the Curse Dragon. What's more, it helped stall for time so Corey and Laurel could arrive in time with the Curse Crusher.
It might seem pointless that Ian never gets to meet (or even speak) to Wilden, almost making the whole journey feel unfair for Ian, but it makes sense. Ian, while never having had a father, always had his mom and brother. While it would've been cool for Ian to finally meet his dad, he'd be like a stranger to Ian because he never actually knew him. On the other hand, Barley had a few memories of Wilden, grieved his death, and deeply regretted not saying goodbye because he was too scared at the sight of him hooked to life support — things Ian never had to suffer through. Ultimately, it was better that Barley finally got the chance to say goodbye to someone he knew and lost, rather than Ian meeting someone whom hes never met.
In a way, one could interpret Barley and Ians personalitys as developed due to their dads absence. Ian is meek, unconfident, and awkward, but still ultimately functional and, while he notes the general absence in his familys life, he can thrive without it since he was born after his father died. Barley is a reckless, bombastic guy who never fears anything because it was a decision he made in response to being too scared to say goodbye to his father because of the life support he was hooked up to.
Why doesn't the gas station attendant bat an eye at Ian carrying a tiny Barley around, despite the fact that magic hasn't been around for centuries? The pixie bikers—Barley is about their size, and with his back against Ian's shirt it's impossible to see that he doesn't have wings. With all of the pixies already in the gas station, the employee probably just assumed Barley was another member who came late.
Adding to this, Barley already dresses in a somewhat punk-rock fashion with his beanie and rock-patch vest—while not as extreme as the pixies in their leather and spikes, his style is complementary to theirs.
The story follows a motif of The Good Old Times, and looking to the past, with Barley reminiscing about how things used to be and protecting historic monuments, Ian reflecting on his dad who passed long before he was born, and Corey also reminisces on her former glory.
We see Laurel do various feats, like tossing her eldest son like a salad, and chasing after the Curse Dragon with a giant sword. Suddenly, its all too clear what Wilden saw in her.
This also hints at what potential dynamic they had when Wilden was still alive; a nerdy guy and a tough girl, basically making a Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy duo.
We can also see where the boys got their respective aspects from. Barley obviously inherited his mother's fighting skills, and Walden (assuming he had any) passed on his magical skills to Ian.
First time watching the movie, it seems pointless to have Blazey in the movie (aside from establishing how the once fearsome dragons were domesticated) if she didn't even come on the journey. But then, it occurs: she's meant to justify how the Lightfoots could be in possession of a dragon leash, the one used to help guide Walden's lower half.
In a flashback, we see Barley teach Ian to ride a bike. Whilst the latter is wearing a bicycle helmet, the former is not. This is a nice Call-Forward to Barley's story of the last time he saw his father, and how he promised he'd never be scared again.
When Barley has to go to the bathroom while he's tiny, there's no implication of him having any difficulty with a comparatively huge toilet. But then you notice that the pixie bikers are about the same size. It makes sense that public restrooms in this world would have some way of accommodating that. He probably just used one of the "pixie size" toilets.
Why are the gems used for the Visitation Spell called Phoenix Gems? Well, considering phoenixes symbolize death and rebirth, it makes sense that something named after them would be used to bring back the dead.
The concept also serves as yet another Shout-Out to Dungeons & Dragons. There, to cast "Raise Dead", you also need a fancy gem (in that case, a diamond worth at least 5000 gold).
Ian's wardrobe undergoes a few changes over the course of the film. Initially he wears his father's sweater, showing how much he wants to emulate the man he never met. For the bulk of the quest he sports a red flannel over a white tee, but covered with black accents that represent his insecurities. During the final battle that same flannel is ripped open to show off Ian's long-dormant Hot-Blooded streak. By the end he's back to a buttoned shirt, but fully red this time, showing how he's grown into his own man.
Colt. He has horse-like fur, a goofy whinny laugh, and can drum out time with his feet. Yet hes a centaur, so hell never fully replace Wilden. Regardless, the fact he matches Barley's memories of his father does lend credit that Laurel came to start a relationship with Colt because he reminds her of her first husband.
Furthermore, while Wilden spends the majority of the movie with only the lower half of his body, it's Colt's UPPER body that is more humanoid (or elf-oid) in appearance. A bit of a stretch, but still.
Early on in the movie, Ians phone breaks. This not only ensures that he cant phone his mom about whats going on, thereby diffusing 50% of the movies conflict, but he also cant use it to take a picture of the Manticores map, forcing him and Barely to ask for it.
Why doesnt Barley have a phone? Well since he is jobless, he is reliant on his mother for finances. And given how reckless and accident prone Barley is, it is unlikely Laurel was willing to buy him one.
When Will first got sick, he fought so hard because he desperately wanted to meet Ian, but he never got to. Now, Ian fights so hard because he desperately wants to meet Will, but he never gets to. Like father, like son.
Being a single parent is hard work. Laurel laments in the beginning that there's not much food in the fridge because she's been so busy (she's planning a milestone birthday right now, after all) that she still needs to get to the store. As Ian realizes by the end, Barley has always been the father figure in his life. Barley's likely NEET not because he's lazy or obsessed with his game but because he stepped up and tried to take the burden off of his mom by being there for his little brother — he was more focused on that than on his career or education.
Can you imagine the entire film from Wilden's perspective? Imagine your last moments of consciouness being hooked up to life support, terminally ill, and then suddenly regaining consciousness at an undetermined time later but unable to see, hear or speak? He seems to deal with it relatively well, given he was able to communicate with foot taps and was even jolly enough to dance, but the entire experience must have been...rather unsettling. He's being yanked around on a leash, and thrown around on the back of a van, and he has no idea what's going on...
He probably went to Heaven or a setting appropriate equivalent when he died, so he wouldn't be "suddenly regaining consciousness." And being that he knew enough about magic to create this spell, he likely realized quickly that the spell failed or something else went wrong. Still would be a very weird experience.
People in this universe live in mushroom houses and have fire-breathing dragons as pets. Mushrooms are highly flammable, so house fires must be common...
It's possible the houses are just designed to look like mushrooms for aesthetic reasons, while built out of more dragon-proof materials.
Unicorns being the equivalent of pests may be Played for Laughs, but remember unicorns are shown to have bigger body than real world pests like raccoons and rats. In other words, has anyone in this world been bitten or severely hurt by these large size unicorns? And what other Large-size magical creatures are considered pests?
Add to this that they have long, pointy horns. An aggressive unicorn can easily impale a person.
Which is what unicorns were known for doing to people before Disneyfication.
The Gelatinous Cube is said to instantly dissolve anything it picks up, and we see that it definitely has that ability. But the skeletons and shields seen inside don't look to be dissolved at all...which means that thing is possibly sentient enough to choose what to digest and what to keep as a trophy. Running from a giant cube of acidic goo is one thing, but running from one that is actively trying to kill you? Bone-chilling.
Even more horrifying is to think of why there would be skeletons left at all if the Gelatinous Cube dissolves whatever is touches. After all, if it dissolves everything, then there should be nothing left to show to Ian and Barley that other people were there already. This leaves us with two options; the skeletons were people who took another method before being dissolved, or the Cube is capable of only partially dissolving its prey, which means it probably, well, took its time. Its like if The Blob lived in a dungeon.
Barley tries, with limited success, to preserve historical sites; in the movie, one of such sites is the secret location of the Phoenix Gem, a powerful, rare magical artifact. So, how many magical amulets and similar stuff had been destroyed by urbanizing and construction companies? And how about the risk of releasing powerful, dangerous curses by accident? If the fountain had been destroyed earlier, then the curse's monster would have destroyed the city, starting with the school, and nobody would have been able to stop it without The Manticore's magic sword and a wizard's assistance.
Thank heaven the school was empty when the curse started to take effect.
At the end of the film, when Ian levitates the van, they fly dangerously close to some power lines. Thank god they never hit any...
Had Ian's original staff never lost its power in the ocean at the end of the film, imagine the staff being discovered by the wrong hands.
The mermaid sitting in a kiddie pool in the front lawn. How in the world did she even get there?
A legged friend, relative, or life partner could have carried her there.
Mermaids may move around on land in a wheelchair, hoverboard, Segway, e-scooter...
What exactly is the purpose of a drawbridge over a bottomless pit? What would be passing underneath that would require the bridge to be raised? Wouldn't a regular bridge make more sense?
The purpose might not be to let something pass under, but rather to stop someone from passing over. Think castle moat drawbridge vs modern road drawbridge—one prevents invaders from crossing over, and the other allows ships to pass freely. Given the Path of Peril existed to test questing adventurers, the bridge not being down may have been intentional so as to only let truly skilled magic users cross the chasm.
The wording of the Visitation Spell is problematic. It says... "Only once is all we get, grant me this rebirth. Till tomorrows sun has set, one day to walk the earth!" The question is whether "one day to walk the earth" limits you to just 24 hours because "tommorow's sun has set" is always giving you until the next day. So unless you cast the spell exactly at sunset, you'd always have more than 24 hours of rebirth. The movie bypasses the issue entirely by having Ian accidentally cast the spell just as the sun was setting thus establishing a convenient 24-hour deadline. But, technically you could have considerably more time if you cast the spell at the right moment. For the sake of argument, let's say sunset is at 6:00pm on any given day. So, if the spell was cast at 12:01 am Monday morning you'd technically have until Tuesday's sunset until the spell ends. That would be 42 hours of rebirth. If the "one day to walk the earth" means literally 24 hours, then that gives you til midnight Tuesday but ignores the sunset condition or if it ends at the next sunset, that would be Monday evening which only gives you 18 hours and ignores the "tomorrow's sunset" clause.
While I don't disagree with you that the wording is weird, my guess is that the next day's sunset is the longest the spell can last; cast it after sunset the previous day, and you'll have less than 24 hours. Keep in mind that this spell was developed by a washout wizard on his deathbed; of course it's gonna have some kinks. Makes you wonder if Ian's inexperience was the only reason it failed initially, considering Wilden, were he in better shape, might have wanted to account for the fact that casters aren't commonplace and there was no guarantee either of his sons would fit the bill.