Writer and director of 2013’s Monsters Inc. prequel, Monsters University, Dan Scanlon, is back with a new Pixar-animated film. This time no monsters, but mythical creatures such as elves, dragons and not enough unicorns, to make us smile and tear up just that tiny bit, like we’re so used to from animation powerhouse Pixar. But does Onward also feel like an instant Pixar-classic?
Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers, Ian (Tom Holland – Spider-Man: Far From Home) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy), go on an journey to discover if there is still a little magic left out there in order to spend one last day with their father, who died when they were too young to remember him. Barley being so familiar with some sort of otherworldly Dungeons and Dragons game, helps his brother to overcome his fears and insecurities by using geeky quotes and magical spells which will help them on their quest. Along the road they meet up with the long forgotten deadly warrior, Manticore (Octavia Spencer – Ma), who now owns a kids-friendly diner, and their mom (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Downhill) chasing them all over town to make sure they’re safe and don’t get into any trouble.
Scanlon’s film hits every mark necessary for a classic Pixar film: emotions, jokes, some clever writing and character development. But it does lack in certain areas. The animation and especially the character design doesn’t always feel original or clever in any way. We all know what fairies, mermaids and cyclops look like. Putting them in a modern world, doesn’t necessarily make it all fresh. The marketing around the film was also a bit flat, not really focusing on what Onward was really about. The main take was two brothers going on a quest to see their dad one more time, but in fact the film is all about brotherhood, not so much about parenthood.
Voice actors Holland and Pratt are perfectly cast and do an incredible job at bringing these two main characters to life. Pratt’s Barley is without a doubt one of the funniest Pixar characters to date, while Holland’s Ian will definitely resonate with more insecure teenage boys who feel like they don’t fit in. Dreyfus‘ Laurel is not your typical mom, she’s a cool mom. The most badass scenes are probably the ones in which she’s involved. Although Onward sort of feels like a copy of Scanlon‘s previous Pixar effort, Monsters University – outcasts trying to fit in and going on some sort of quest to then battle a big bad at the end – it still has a lot of new stuff to entertain us with (Note: pixie fairies on motorbikes!).
More of a Disney Animated film than an actual Pixar classic, Onward delivers on an emotional level that’s mostly addressed to adults instead of children. Entertaining as it is, it for sure is forgettable and there’s nothing wrong with that. Made for those who appreciate some geeky D&D-references and just want to watch another magically cute animated film with a wonderful message, brought to you by the Mouse House.
Review – ‘Onward’
Reviewed at Hoyts Entertainment Quarter, Sydney, March 1, 2020. Australian Classification: PG. Running time: 104 min.
PRODUCTION: A Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Pixar Animation Studios release. Producer: Kori Rae. Executive producer: Pete Docter.
CREW: Director: David Scanlon. Screenplay: Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, Keith Bunin. Camera: Sharon Calahan, Adam Habib. Editor: Catherine Apple. Music: Jeff Danna, Mychael Danna.
WITH: (voices) Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, Lena Waithe, Ali Wong, George Psarras, Tracey Ullman, John Ratzenberger.