Film Review – Onward (2020)

Title – Onward (2020)

Directors – Dan Scanlan (Monsters University)

Cast – (Voices of) Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer

Plot – In a magical world where many have forgotten the power of magic in their lives, brothers Ian (Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Pratt) set out on a quest to bring back their long-deceased father for a 24 hour period.   

“Long ago, the world was full of wonder. It was adventurous. It was exciting”

Review by Eddie on 30/03/2020

For a company that is synonymous with magic and wonder, it’s a shame a film like Onward feels so un-magical as a Pixar offering.

Tha animation kings, have across many decades provided both children and adults with a variety of memorable and fantastical products, products that have transported us to places of unbelievable joy and while on paper Onward seems like the perfect mix of subject matter and master, Dan Scanlan’s beautiful too look at but mostly charmless affair tries too hard to pack emotional wallop, while largely ignoring its great set-up on the quest to do so.

Set in a universe where genuine magic exists but is largely ignored by a collection of fantasy creatures whose lives have turned more to everyday technology and creations while forgoing the real stuff, Onward quickly bypasses its world and backstory as it turns its focus towards Tom Holland’s Ian and Chris Pratt’s Barely Lightfoot, brothers who will stop at nothing on their quest to bring back their father from the dead for just one day.

Pixar is usually an expert storytelling house when it comes to world building and set-up and Onward just never feels like its allowed time to breath, as it only ever half-explores the raft of ideas or concepts it so easily could’ve bought into its story, a story that takes a more generic turn of family drama and examination of loss that Pixar seems intent on exploring through efforts such as Coco, Wall-E and Up, films that all managed to create a universe that felt just as important as its more character driven moments.

All the elements appear to be in place for Onward to mix together the perfect concoction of heart, soul, laughter and creativity but their all only on show fleetingly throughout the films runtime, an unfortunate facet to a film that’s animation work is typically top notch and voice work as solid from a cast of such experienced actors that includes Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer and Lena Waithe.

It’s odd to watch a Pixar film, especially in such a bizarre time in our world right now, that has caused Onward to quickly become the biggest financial failure in the history of the company, that doesn’t have you belly laughing on regular occurrences or doesn’t win you over with its sincerity and well-meaning intent, Onward is like an imposter of the brand, everything is there on surface level, but scratch a little deeper and you can quickly tell this is but a pale imitation of what has come before it, as we begin to tire of this brothers on a mission narrative that perhaps assumed it had us won over early on when in fact we never had a chance to really care.

Final Say –

Squandering an on paper incredible world to place a story in, Onward’s mantra is magic and wonder but losing sight of that very early on to tell a far more generic story, this newest Pixar offering is only a half-formed offering that will likely become one of the most forgettable entries yet into a mostly unforgettable array of films.

2 ½ pet dragons out of 5  

11 responses to “Film Review – Onward (2020)

  1. I agree with your assessment of Onward. To me, the imitative moments were problematic. What worked for Indiana Jones has since been redone to death, so when Onward insists on embracing the redundancy, it’s the perfect time to take that restroom break. Even the title, associated with the brother’s van, is redundant. Wasn’t Ken Kesey’s adventure bus back in the ’60’s called “Forward”? Maybe this movie has the wrong name. Backward seems a more appropriate title.

    • Glad to hear you agree with this assessment. I was really looking forward to this one, was the last movie I would get to see at cinema for some time but yeh, was a big letdown.

  2. I definitely agree that this film only hit the surface level of its potential. When the film started out I was so excited, and as it went on that excitement his a continuous decline. While the ending was touching I definitely think the film could have made a more powerful impact if the film had reached its full potential.

    • Oh for sure! It had such an interesting world to explore to, it didn’t even feel like it scratched the surface of the ideas it had within it.

  3. So, you’re only complaint is the back story and the setup? The film was better than you let on. If it was so terrible you should at least back it up with specific examples.

    • And that it didn’t make the most of the awesome world it sets itself in, the jokes were not overly memorable, theres a few things there mate sorry I didnt spend the whole review going through every minor detail but I’m fairly confident we wont be spending much time talking about this soon to be forgotten film in a few years to come.

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