Onward is a 2020 animated adventure film directed by Dan Scanlon, written by Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, and Keith Bunin, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The film stars Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature, but did not win.
"My brother is a wizard!" -Barley Lightfoot
When his 16th birthday rolls around, quiet elf Ian Lightfoot receives a posthumous gift from his father. The gift provides Ian and his brother, Barley, to spend one last day with their late dad. The spell doesn't go as planned, and Ian and Barley must venture out on a magical quest to get the Phoenix Gem, the only thing that will bring their dad fully back.
The best thing about this film is the relationship between Ian and Barley. These two are brothers that idolize and love each other, and the writing and story make that bond feel so real and so emotionally resonant. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt are perfectly cast as the voices of these two, and their acting makes the chemistry between the brothers so heartfelt.
The movie is actually very emotional. Not exactly sad, but emotional. The entire premise can be a little bit heavy and depressing, but the end just makes you feel a ton of emotions. It's bittersweet, because you see Barley get to say goodbye to his father, while Ian still hasn't ever met him. Barley can act like a brother and a father figure to Ian, which makes the ending happier. You love both of these characters and want both of them to get what they want. And, in a way, they do.
I think that the story is fun. I love that they brought a fantastical element to a modern day age. Ian and Barley's quest may not be the most creative thing that Pixar has brought to the table, as it is usually a solely Disney thing to do, but I think that they do a good job of putting their own twist on things. The idea of them using a board game as a reference guide is something that you could believe in this world, and it is little things like that that make you appreciate the movie the more that you think about it.
The world-building is great, too. I love the opening montage where it explains the history of whatever fantastia we've been introduced to. It's so mystical while being so relatable at the same time, and that is a combination that is almost never felt while watching a film. They put these mythical creatures and monsters in situations that people today are in. I never thought I'd be watching a movie where an elf walks into a gas station full of punk fairies. And now I have seen that.
The voice acting is great. It is a little bit hard to watch Ian and Barley and not hear Spider-Man and Star-Lord, but it's nice that Tom Holland and Chris Pratt have such a perfect chemistry in a movie where it is just them talking. The big brother-little brother dynamic is so realistic with them and the way that they talk. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer don't have huge parts, but they fit their characters as perfectly as Holland and Pratt fit theirs.
Finally, the animation is as beautiful as ever. We've seen Pixar deliver toys, monsters, robots, and animals, but there are so many creatures that are just stunning. If you did not like this movie, you still have to have some respect for the treat that your eyes receive while watching it. The lighting and settings and characters are so good. Pixar never falters from the animated aspect of their films.
I do think that the pacing of this movie is a little bit uneven. It feels like they had a nice and steady pace for the first hour or so, and they rushed the final act of the movie. They forget about subplots and just focus on Ian and Barley, and they really did not get a clean transition into the final fight with the dragon. It feels like a very bumpy road near the end, and this movie could've been near perfect without it.
I said near perfect. The other thing that I have a problem with is the subplots. I hate it when movies have a subplot that is woven in throughout the entire movie, but it really only gets about 5-7 minutes of total screen time. That's how it felt with the subplot about their mom and the manticore. And the police chase. They didn't feel very thought out, leading to some faults in the plot and pulling you out of Ian and Barley's adventure.
Lastly, I think that the movie is too overstuffed. They added too many little events that happen throughout, giving the movie a bit of a claustrophobic vibe at certain points. There is a lot that is happening in the movie, and it is really worth more than 1 hour and 40 minutes. They could've fleshed it out a little bit more or taken out some of the more unnecessary parts of the movie, and easily made it a much less mind-straining watch.
While Onward may not measure up to Toy Story or The Incredibles, it is another solid entry in Pixar's fantastic track record.
I will give it a Savory rating. Age range is 5+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 9/10
Directed by Dan Scanlon
Rated PG for some potentially scary images, disturbing themes
Released on March 6, 2020
1 hour and 42 minutes
Tom Holland as Ian Lightfoot
Chris Pratt as Barley Lightfoot
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Laurel Lightfoot
Octavia Spencer as The Manticore
Mel Rodriguez as Officer Colt Bronco
Kyle Bornheimer as Wilden Lightfoot