Onward movie review (2020)

Onward slightly lacks some of the magic Pixar usually brings, but it’s beautifully animated and it tells a touching story about family that everyone will enjoy.

Pixar continues to roll with these original stories and as a fan for so many years, I can’t really complain since, at this point, the company can virtually do no wrong. There have been some slight disappointments throughout the years. But, for the most part, I think Pixar is arguably the best in the business in terms of animated filmmaking and although some other studios have are close, I don’t think it’ll be topped any time soon.

Pixar’s latest effort is Onward, which stars Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Octavia Spencer. In a town which was once filled with magic and wizardry, the people seem to have forgotten about it after more practical ways of living have emerged, pushing magic to the side.

Two brothers, Ian (Holland) and Barley (Pratt), are living without their late father, but have the chance to bring him back for a full day after learning of a secret spell he left behind for their mother (Louis-Dreyfus) to give to them. After the spell goes wrong and they’re only able to bring back the lower half of their father, they must go on a quest to try and bring back the rest of him as the clock winds down.

It’s a very interesting story and, in some ways, pretty original, even if it does borrow some ideas from other things I’ve seen before. I love how the movie sort of plays like an RPG video game. In the movie, Barley is obsessed with the idea of going on a quest due to his love for a board game and how it’s inspired by actual historical events from the world they live in.

In a way, as I was watching, it seemed very nostalgic since it borrows a ton from the RPG genre. For example, learning new skills as you venture to new areas, solving puzzles, and boss fights. Onward does this extremely well and the whole time, from a visual standpoint, it’s fascinating to look at.

I found the world to be very captivating at times, particularly because of the characters. I think what impressed me the most is how it’s supposed to be this fantastical, magic-filled world. However, because of the forgotten magic, it’s more relatable to the viewer. I got to see both aspects and a lot of it was portrayed through the characters.

The two leads, Ian and Barley, do this the most since they’re the ones on the quest. But, another character, the Manticore (Spencer), does a bit of both. She’s the best example of someone in that world who has forgotten who she was in order to adjust to the current world she’s living in. You see her battling with that. She was great to see in the movie and one of my favorites.

Then you have Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez), a police officer who happens to be a Centaur and always seems a bit lost and oblivious to what’s going on around him. I think the film does a great job with the diversity in character as well and these are the best examples.

Despite all the great, I wish it would’ve done a bit more with the world. Then again, it’s only one film which focuses on a specific story. Pixar has already said it won’t be working on sequels moving forward, either, so seeing another story set in this world is pretty unlikely and, in many ways, unfortunate. Being that the movie deals quite a bit with the forgotten magic, the movie, as a whole, I feel, misses some of the magic Pixar usually brings. Although it’s nowhere near the bottom of the list, I can’t say the movie as a whole is one of its best works.

At its core though, you see this movie because of the story and the journey Ian and Barley go on. It’s overwhelmingly emotional at times and I had to hold back some tears in certain scenes. At the very least, you can always expect Pixar to bring the feels.

Overall, I enjoyed Onward in more ways than one and although more could’ve been done in this world, it’s definitely worth a watch for the family-friendly tale that’ll tug at your heartstrings.

Score: B

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