Review by Sean Boelman
In Disney and Pixar’s “Onward,” brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) are given a special gift from their late father on Ian’s 16th birthday. But when an accompanying spell meant to magically conjure their dad for one day goes awry, they embark on a quest fraught with some of the most unexpected obstacles. Directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae, “Onward” opens in U.S. theaters on March 6, 2020. © 2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
The newest film from highly acclaimed animation studio Disney-Pixar, Dan Scanlon’s movie Onward offers a blend of fantasy adventure, coming-of-age comedy, and family drama. Arguably the studio’s most ambitious film to date, this may not have much of an impact on the youngest of viewers, but will undoubtedly resonate with older kids and adults who see it.
The movie follows two brothers as they go on a quest to find a mythical gem that will allow them the opportunity to bring their father back to life for 24 hours and see him one last time. Like any Pixar film, Onward hits the typical beats of its genre pretty consistently, albeit with a bit of a self-aware twist. The quest itself is rather predictable, but there is still plenty of fun to be had along the way.
Perhaps the most successful part of this movie is its world-building. The film is built around the ingenious concept of bringing the world of fantasy and magic into the modern age of technology. This results in some absolutely hilarious bits, like one involving a pawn shop, and a recurring gag about driving. Some of these jokes (many of which are the movie’s funniest) will likely fly go kids’ heads, if only because they haven’t experienced these things for themselves, but will give their adult companions plenty to laugh at.
Of course, this detailed world comes hand-in-hand with the excellent animation that the film has to offer. Among Pixar’s recent original efforts, it may not be as gorgeous as Coco or Inside Out, but it still does a very good job of immersing the viewer. The way in which fantasy and realism is blended is often awe-inspiring thanks to the tremendous effort put in by the animators.
When teenage elf brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot (voices of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) get an unexpected opportunity to spend one more day with their late dad, they embark on an extraordinary quest fraught with some of the most unexpected obstacles. Disney and Pixar’s “Onward” opens in U.S. theaters on March 6, 2020. © 2020 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
If the movie does struggle in one area, it is that it ultimately bites off more than it can chew thematically. While the film does come together very nicely by the end, there are still a few things that don’t get explored completely. Many of the things that feel like loose ends come from the subplots and side characters in the story, some of which had the potential to be much more.
That said, the main emotional arc of the movie — the protagonists trying to reconnect with their father — is very compelling. In typical Pixar fashion, audiences can expect to leave the film a bit teary-eyed, if not bawling hysterically. Still, the emotion in this movie feels much more earned than that in some of the studio’s lesser efforts.
The voice cast in the film is also very strong. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt have great chemistry together and do a nice job of leading the movie, but more often than not, it is the supporting cast that steals the show. Mel Rodriguez is absolutely hilarious as a centaur police officer, and Octavia Spencer is great as a mythical hybrid beast that the protagonists encounter on their quest. Everyone in the cast gets their moment to shine, and the film is all the better for it.
Onward does have a few areas in which it could have used improvement, but it is still of the quality one would expect from Disney-Pixar. Because of the nature of the story and humor, this one will probably be appreciated more by the over-ten kids, but there is still plenty to enjoy for the whole family.
Onward opens in theaters on March 6.
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