My first review! Sadly – Onward was the last film I was able to see in theaters, as the covid-19 pandemic quickly made its presence known around the globe. Although, the film was able to be released in theaters before shutdowns, my local AMC theater was nothing short of a ghost town on opening night as social distancing became the norm.
Onward is a film by Disney and Pixar studios and was released on March 6th, 2020. Staring Chris Pratt (voicing Barley) and Tom Holland (voicing Ian) as the Lightfoot brothers who go on a magical (no pun intended) quest to spend one last day with their father who is no longer with them. Even as characters in an animated film, Chris and Tom seem to still have that great Avengers chemistry as you genuinely believe they are related. With a supporting cast including Julia Louis-Dreyfus (voicing Laurel) and Octavia Spencer (voicing The Manticore), Onward appears to be the next non sequel Pixar film set up for success, the Magic just isn’t always there.
Onward, in the world that was full of wonder, adventure, excitement and magic seems to have forgotten its magical roots. That world full of wonder, as is depicted in the prologue is difficult to learn, creating the easy way out for the lazy to invent electricity. As the world starts to evolve, the historic past of a magical realm gets left behind, making society more mundane. Where there was once unicorn’s flying around the land, Mermaids swimming the oceans, centaurs roaming the great plains, and wizards helping the less fortunate light their homes, start fires for those in the cold is no more; unicorns are similar to rabid animals fighting over garbage to eat, dragons are house pets and the mighty manticore is a small business owner struggling to make ends meet.
Ian, who turns 16 when the story gets going, is a lot like you and I at that age; anxious, nervous, shy and filled with embarrassment of others’ actions. Throughout the first act of the film, Ian struggles to find his identity, writing goals down to “Be more like Dad” or “Be Bold”. We all struggle with stepping out of our comfort zones and Ian is attempting to do just that. Ian’s growth is organic to the story as you see him more confident as he learns more about magic and the lore of his ancestors.
Barley, on the other hand is loud, charismatic and knows exactly the elf he is. He holds on to the past too much and is determined to keep the magic alive. He is a bit of an extremist, chaining himself to landmarks that are about to be bulldozed. Barleys obsession with Quests of Yore and Ian’s hope to meet his father for the first time is the spark that starts the journey and gets them into all these misfortunes. One thing that goes through my mind when watching this film every time Barley has a line, I cannot help but picture Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt’s character on Parks and Rec).
The one thing Onward gets right is family and what it means to the Lightfoots. Although two vastly different characters, their connection grows stronger as the film and quest progresses. There is a slight hiccup when Ian is impersonating Colt Bronco and let’s slip that he thinks Barley is a letdown, but they quickly become close as Ian begins to truly open up and be himself. The theme of family is present across the film and it makes Barley a better character for it as we see how much he loves his brother and truly has been watching over him his entire life. Throughout the entirety of the film, the search to bring back the elves father creeps closer and closer as in the final battle, Ian realizes he has had something just as close to a father; he had an older brother who has been his father figure. The revelation being that Barley has been there for every big moment of Ian’s life (teaching him how to be fearless behind the wheel of Guinevere, teaching how to ride a bike and playing wizard catch with off brand Cheetos). Ian selflessly allows Barley to say goodbye to their father, since the fourth memory Barley had not been so pleasant.
In short, Onward is a decent film but not the best Pixar has put out, not fully capturing the magical spirit it was hoping to cast. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and understand the need for the big-time actors in demand to voice roles, I just couldn’t get past the mental block set in from past characters. If I had a say who the most bad ass character of them all (besides Ian) are the pixie dusters. There was something about a fairy biker that drew me in as a fairy character is usually more reserved and calm.
Have you gotten a chance to watch Onward yet? if so, drop a comment and let’s discuss!
Onward is directed by Dan Scanlon and rated PG. The runtime is 1 hour and 42 minutes and is available to stream on Disney Plus.
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