‘Onward’ Film Review

  Grade: B+

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Ratzenberger, Tracey Ullman, Mychael Danna, Jeff Danna, Wilmer Valderrama, Catherine Apple, Sharon Calahan, Grey Griffin, Chris Pratt, Kori Rae, Mel Rodriguez, Dan Scanlon, Octavia Spencer, Keith Bunin, Kyle Bornheimer, Noah Klocek, Lena Waithe, Adam Habib, Jason Headley, Tom Holland, Ali Wong, and George Psarras in Onward (2020)   With the Coronavirus epidemic hitting the United States as of late, and movie theaters closing up shop as a result. Films that have been released in the past few weeks have made the move from big screens to smaller, digital formats. Pixar’s newest feature, ‘Onward’ is one of those films. However, it is streaming on Disney+ as of Friday, April 3rd, which means if you have a subscription, you do not have to purchase it on your phone. Families can sit around the TV and watch the tale of two elf brothers as they go on a quest to bring back their father for a day.

Tom Holland and Chris Pratt lend their vocal talents as Ian and Barley Lightfoot. They are brothers who are different personality-wise; Ian (Holland) is a socially-awkward, anxiety-ridden teen trying to find his way in the world as he reaches his sixteenth birthday, while Barley (Pratt) is an overly confident, fantasy-obsessed young man who sees his ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ style board game as history and believes there is still magic left in the world. As the story goes, long ago, in ancient times, magic was all there was in the world, until electricity was discovered, and eventually every mythical creature started evolving with the times.

While ‘Bright’ did the mythical-beings-living-in-modern-times before, ‘Onward’ is a film that gets it right with that Pixar magic you come to expect. There are tons of laughs as well as an emotional core that represents its heart. Lately, I have noticed that Pixar has been having a bit of a quality decline in recent years (mainly ‘The Good Dinosaur’ and ‘Finding Dory’). While I did enjoy ‘Cars 3’, ‘Incredibles 2’, and ‘Toy Story 4’, Pixar excels when they provide original ideas. ‘Onward’ is a film that does not feel like a rip-off or sequel and takes you on an exciting, fun, and heartfelt adventure. Not to mention, the animation quality is still fantastic to look at as Pixar movies tend to do.

The one takeaway from ‘Onward’ could have been the novelty of Ian and Barley’s father being a lower-half after a resurrection spell gone wrong wearing out, but it thankfully does not take away from the family dynamic, instead adding to the enjoyment and the emotion of the story. When the feels hit, they feel more like a reward than forced emotional manipulation. Not that Pixar is not good at having emotional weight, it is only better when you have relatable characters and a fun story.

While it is not as emotionally impactful as ‘Coco’ or ‘Inside Out’, ‘Onward’ is as close to a great Pixar film. It looks like they are on the right track and I cannot wait to see what they do with ‘Soul’, if it gets released.

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