When brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) receive a gift from their late father that would allow their father to return for 24 hours, they embark on a quest to find the gem required for such a powerful spell.
Of all Disney’s acquisitions over the years, it could be argued that Pixar is their crown jewel. Despite having made over twenty films since their debut feature film in 1995, the studio has had an impressive consistency of quality in both storytelling and pushing the boundaries of computer animation, with only a few slip-ups along the way. Driven by the voice talents of Marvel Cinematic Universe favorites Tom Holland and Chris Pratt and inspired by director Don Scanlon’s personal relationship with his older brother, Onward seeks to build on Pixar’s amazing legacy. While there is a lot to enjoy and take away from this film, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Pixar’s best.
The world of Onward is unique among the Pixar library, taking place in a fantasy world that feels like it was created by JRR Tolkein or JK Rowling. We’ve seen unique creatures in Monsters, Inc., so there is a familiarity to the inhabitants but they still maintain a freshness that prevents the character design from feeling rehashed. This film takes inspiration from fantasy stories of yore so of course there are plenty of call backs to be found. Having watched The Lord of the Rings films for an anniversary celebration a few years ago, one of my favorite references was a diner advertising “second breakfast.” That’s just one of many found throughout the movie and I’m sure someone more versed in the fantasy genre than I am will notice many more easter eggs than I did.
Being a fan of action-adventure films and fantasy films, I found this film to be very fun. It was full of excitement and laughs. There is some good physical comedy from the Dad legs, particularly some Weekend at Bernie’s style comedy that gave me some good chuckles. The musical score primarily consists of strings, giving the film an acoustic flavor. It fit the fantasy theme of the movie very well. There was also some guitar riffs reminiscent of Van Halen, perfectly apt of Barley’s rebellious nature.
Ian and Barley’s relationship is the core of Onward. The two brothers are brought to life by Peter Parker and Peter Quill – I mean Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. As an older brother myself, Barley’s protectiveness of Ian resonated with me. Throughout the film they were laughing together, fighting each other, and being supportive of one another, like the relationship I share with my siblings. There is a clear growth of the Lightfoot brothers, both individually and together, culminating in an emotional conclusion. Of all the things Pixar has done well in their films, portrayal of families has always been one of their strengths and their expertise is on full display here.
Another strength of Pixar is their emotional moments and for me, that’s where this film falls short. I will admit that the ending did surprise me; I thought I knew how Ian’s and Barley’s journey would end but I was pleasantly surprised that I was wrong. However, it didn’t hit me emotionally as hard as other Pixar outings did. However, I could easily see others getting hit more in the feels than I did. And that’s kind of how I felt throughout the entire film. While there are many fun, exciting, and wholesome moments, I didn’t find anything truly memorable. It took a second viewing for me to be like “Oh yeah, I remember that.” It shouldn’t take multiple viewings to make moments stand out.
I thought Onward was GOOD 🙂 Pixar has far and away established themselves as some of the best storytellers in Hollywood. Onward‘s tale about the bonds between siblings in one many can relate to and is sure to strike all the right emotional cords. Unfortunately, besides those strong emotions, and perhaps some good action sequences, this film lacks much else to really place cement itself as a top-tier Pixar films. Still, it is far from their worst and provides a feel-good story that is more than worth checking out.
Cast & Crew
Dan Scanlon – Director / Writer
Keith Bunin – Writer
Jason Headley – Writer
Jeff Danna – Composer
Mychael Danna – Composer
Tom Holland – Ian Lightfoot (voice)
Chris Pratt – Barley Lightfoot (voice)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Laurel Lightfoot
Octavia Spencer – The Manticore (voice)
Mel Rodriguez – Colt Bronco (voice)
Lena Waithe – Officer Spector (voice)
Ali Wong – Officer Gore (voice)
Grey Griffin – Dewdrop (voice)
Kyle Bornheimer – Wilden Lightfoot (voice)