Something I noticed with Pixar in the 2010s is that the majority of films that they’ve released were sequels. Of course, original films like Inside Out and Coco happened, but that’s alongside two Toy Story sequels, two Cars sequels, a Monsters Inc. prequel, and sequels to Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. At some point, Pixar had to come back to doing what made them so beloved in the first place, which they did in the beginning of the 2020s. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen a lot of hype surrounding this film up to its release, which is strange considering that this comes from Pixar. Anyways, this is Onward.
Fantasy creatures exist in a world that’s become more modernized and soon, magic has become obsolete. Two elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, set out on a quest after an attempt to bring their father back from the dead goes wrong. What we have here is a quest story taking place in a modernized society that mirrors our own where the convenience of technology means that the past is slowly and surely being forgotten. Also, is it me or does this movie feel a bit like Fullmetal Alchemist? It involves two brothers in a fantasy setting and a dead parent.
The voice acting in this movie is solid all around. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt voice Ian and Barley Lightfoot respectively. Barley, the older brother, is a kind-hearted loser obsessed with history, magic, and all of that while Ian, the younger brother, is dealing with turning 16. His whole deal is that he wants to know more about his father since he died before he was born. I like these two characters as they act just like how brothers would act and their relationship is part of the moral at the film’s final third. As someone with two older brothers, I could relate a bit to Ian. Their mom (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a typical mom character and her centaur boyfriend, Officer Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez) is a guy trying to get along with her sons and isn’t a douchebag. But my favorite character in this film is a manticore named Corey, voiced by Octavia Spencer. She was entertaining as a restaurant owner who used to go on quests, but is inspired to help the Lightfoot brothers. There was a bit of a controversy when it was revealed that Onward was gonna have an openly LGBTQ+ character in it, who’s a cyclops cop voiced by Lena Waithe. Here’s how I view this. I’m all for more diverse characters in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc., but it feels like Disney sucks at LGBTQ+ representation. They would announce that a character in their movie is gay, but either it’s always a minor character or they don’t really do anything with it and push it to the background. From LeFou in Beauty And The Beast (2017) to not making FinnPoe a thing to this. If you’re gonna do a story with LGBTQ+ characters, DO IT. Don’t chicken out like Disney does every single time.
I don’t think I need to talk about the animation. It’s a Pixar movie. It looks great. Objects and backgrounds look super photorealistic to a point where it sometimes clashes with the cartoony character designs. Something that Pixar knows how to do is tug at our strings and while Onward does have emotional moments, they don’t really hit as hard. I think most of that is because we’re following our main characters have to find a gem that can help them bring their father back, who’s nothing but lower body. He can’t see or hear, so it’s harder to get invested in the emotional moments. The humor is a mixed bag where some jokes work and others don’t. I laughed the hardest at the scenes involving the manticore. Let’s skip over to the final third where they finally get the gem, but it releases a curse that forms into a dragon. During this, Ian realizes that Barley was there for him when their father wasn’t. I think that was the moral of the film, that whatever you might be searching for has always been there. This film actually handled brotherhood much better than Brother Bear ever could.
I give Onward a 7/10. The story isn’t exactly the greatest and I wasn’t as emotionally attached as I wanted to be, but most of the characters are likable, the animation is gorgeous, and I was overall invested in what’s going on. Onward is a good movie, but it doesn’t match up to some of Pixar’s greatest films and the high bar that they set for themselves. I won’t be in a rush to watch this movie again, but if it did come on and I just want to kill some time, I wouldn’t mind watching it again. Check it out if you’re curious. It’s now available digitally and will be on Disney+ soon thanks to the coronavirus pandemic closing all the theaters. This also means that upcoming movies will be delayed until things get better. Stay safe, everyone, and wash your hands.