Onward – Film Review

Two teenage elf brothers, Ian (voice of Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (voice of Chris Pratt), go on a journey to discover if there is still a little magic left out there in order to spend one last day with their father, who died when they were too young to remember him.

When a new Disney/Pixar film is coming out, I would like to believe that most people know what they are getting in for. Ever since the first Toy Story was released all the way back in 1995, the animation giant has been well known for crafting emotionally heavy films aimed towards children and adults alike. Their movies are known for making everybody cry with just about every release, and therefore, most people are going to go see Dan Scanlon’s Onward with the same expectation.

Watching the movie with the hopes that it will be as upsetting as the other pictures in Pixar’s filmography will more than likely result in some disappointment for viewers, as Onward is nowhere near as emotional as the other films that came before it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an emotionally resonant and rewarding experience.

The biggest reason as to why this was not as emotional as you probably expected it to be all ties in with the fact that the Lightfoot brothers’ father throughout the film is seen as just a pair of legs. We don’t really feel that strong of a connection between the brothers and the father because we constantly follow the siblings and the father’s legs and it is difficult to get choked up while watching a pair of legs with no torso.

Onward (2020).

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some moments where I got some tears in my eyes, especially in the incredibly moving third act that I never saw coming. It’s mostly unpredictable, highly satisfying and a ton of fun to watch. Viewers that have lost a loved one such as a father in their life are going to be extremely moved by the story and the direction it goes.

Speaking of the story, it is one that was almost interesting and never boring to follow. With a running time of one hundred and three minutes, there definitely could have been a few moments of downtime where really not a whole lot is going on, but gratefully, that was not the case here. The screenwriting by Scanlon, Jason Headley, and Keith Bunin was fluid, constantly moving and consistently entertaining.

Earlier, I mentioned that audiences have come to expect a Disney/Pixar movie to be emotionally devastating. Another thing that they come to expect out of these films is great animation, and gratefully, Onward is yet another great showcase of the beautiful animation that the brilliant animators at Pixar are so terrific at.

However, as stunning as everything looked, it was certainly a little bit odd to look at during some scenes. The lead protagonists Ian and Barley, as well as several other characters throughout the film, are extremely cartoony. They’re elves and they are in a world that is populated with tons of creatures and demons. The problem is the environment that they reside in is remarkably realistic with a ton of the imagery here being photorealistic. Sometimes, the cartoony characters against a realistic backdrop was a bit jarring.

But in the grand scheme of things, this was a great time at the movie theatre. It’s incredibly rare for Pixar to make a complete dud of a film (except for maybe Cars 2), and this was absolutely not an exception to that rule. Take your kids and the whole family to see Onward and they are more than likely going to have a blast.

Onward may not be the most emotionally riveting Pixar film to date, but it’s still a highly entertaining and beautifully animated blast.

Overall Grade: B+

MPAA Rating: PG for action/peril and some mild thematic elements

Cast: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, Kyle Bornheimer, Lena Waithe, Ali Wong, Grey Griffin, Tracey Ullman, Wilmer Valderrama, George Psarras, John Ratzenberger, Dave Foley

Directed by: Dan Scanlon

Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Release Date: March 6, 2020

Running Time: 103 minutes

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