Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there.
When Pixar was bought over by Disney a number of years ago I had concerns that the innovative storytelling and animation that had elevated Pixar to the top of the animation tree (alongside Studio Ghibli of course!) would be fundamentally altered by the corporate trappings of Disney. To both companies credit, that hasn’t really happened and some of Pixar’s finest work has came since the takeover (‘WALL-E’, ‘Up’, ‘Inside Out’ & ‘Coco’ to name a few), however ‘Onward’ is one of the few films that definitely feels more like a Disney movie than a Pixar movie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in the case of ‘Onward’, it relegates it to second or third tier Pixar almost immediately.
‘Onward’ is set in a post-magic fantasy world, with a whole host of magical creatures who have now adapted to live much as we do. This is explained in an opening narration which also introduces us to our protagonists, two elf brothers called Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt). They live at home with their mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and the whole family has struggled to come to terms with the death of their father a number of years ago. Similar to ‘Coco’, it’s a film about coming to terms with loss and understanding grief and death, and whilst ‘Onward’ isn’t nearly as good a film, I do feel this is one area where Pixar movies really excel, and I think children will get more out of this than I have as an adult. That being said, the story is packaged in more of an adventure narrative and I didn’t find it all that interesting, lacking in colourful supporting characters and drama to keep me entertained all the way through. The oft spoken phrase is that it’s about the journey not the destination, yet in the case of ‘Onward’, you could flip that phrase around. The destination is smartly conceived and resonates, but the journey is standard kid movie fare, and it takes away from the well written conclusion to the story.
There’s lots to enjoy in ‘Onward’, particularly for children, but it doesn’t hit the high standards Pixar have set for themselves and it’s ultimately one of their more forgettable efforts.
Directed By: Dan Scanlon
Starring: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, Kyle Bornheimer, Lena Waithe, Ali Wong, Grey Griffin, Tracey Ullman, Wilmer Valderrama and John Ratzenberger