Onward (2020) movie review
Onward is Pixar’s newest animated feature and follows two elven brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, who embark on a quest to find a gem in order to complete a spell that will bring their dad back for 24 hours. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt lend their voices to the leads, and it premiered to generally positive but overall, not great reviews like Pixar has come to be known for. Being set in a modern fantasy world opens the door to numerous possibilities, several of which, unfortunately, do not work as well as they should.
The story is original and new, bringing magic into the modern world in a way that had not really been done before. Poking fun at and twisting traditional elements like unicorns and dragons and placing them in a unique setting is different and enjoyable to watch, even being mixed with some updates that do not quite work as well. Pixar usually manages to strike a perfect balance of tone, humor, and heart, and that is what makes them such good storytellers. For some reason or another, however, that balance is off in this one and I think that is the main problem with it. It never quite takes the time to focus enough on one thing, instead trying to cover all its bases and please everyone, which generally never works, especially for a kids’ movie. I honestly do not know who the humor was being aimed at or what exactly the tone was going for, as I genuinely laughed only once or twice throughout, and though it is aiming to be fun for kids there are a couple scenes that are supposed to be funny but just seem used to kill time.
The film somehow needs to be shorter and longer at the same time, which is another issue resulting from the lack of focus throughout and also creates a new issue in the pacing. The film spends too much time trying to be funny or focusing on things that do not really matter in the end, such as its secondary characters or creating tension that it does not need, instead of on the important things like its overall story and worldbuilding, which I was left wanting much more of.
Those things aside, I found Onward to still be very enjoyable. The two brothers take center stage, and their relationship being the main focus manages to carry the movie and leads to a great third act. The last act manages that balance that the first two were missing, and seeing how good the whole film could have been still had me appreciating it for what it is. The relationship between the characters is the focus of the film, and their physical and emotional journeys throughout is what holds it together, even when other elements leave much to be desired.
I do not have much else to say, and at the risk of rambling or giving something away I just want to wrap this one up. Onward is a good-natured and heartfelt film, following two brothers who learn and grow together throughout, building up to a finale that makes the film worth watching. While it is not near Pixar’s best, its characters and fairly original idea manage to hold it together and create something enjoyable and meaningful for both kids and adults. 7/10
So, Onward? Did you see it? What did you think? And what is your favorite Pixar movie? Whatever your thoughts, be sure to leave a like and a comment below letting us know!
-review by Rachel Grosselin