WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES (2020)
Director: Dan Scanlon
Starring: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer
The Pixar machine rolls back into town to swallow up its animated competition once more...
Pixar’s Onward tells the story of two teenage brothers – two teenage elf brothers – who are set the mission of discovering whether there is still a small amount of magic left in a world that’s long forgotten its existence or necessity. If they succeed on their intrepid quest by sunset, they will be reunited with their late father one last time. If that sounds fairly Pixar-101 in terms of adventure and emotion, then you’d be spot on for thinking that.
Set against the backdrop of that beautiful, crisp animation we’ve all come to know, love and, dare I say, expect, Onward is packed with pertinent messages and themes for people of all ages, though this time around, our protagonists are slightly older than we’re accustomed to. Not by much, but both are on the cusp of adulthood therefore the emotion within the story is allowed to take on different levels and additional depth. Ian Lightfoot (Holland) and his older brother Barley (Pratt) are fairly opposite in terms of character, but you have to believe they’ll learn to work together at some point (...come on), but their camaraderie and relationship was fun to watch evolve throughout. Both Spider-Man and Star-Lord are effective and warm with their voice acting, alongside Dreyfus, Spencer and Pixar stalwart John Ratzenberger in a small role. Also, a hero named Ian? Sweet.
It’s with the brothers that the entire story lies. This is less a movie about departed father figures (though that is a fairly large part), rather more a tribute and nod to brotherhood. Those siblings that torment, one-up and frustrate you but behind it all, they’ll always be there for you and always have been. It’s that which drives the movie on, along with the fantastical adventure the two find themselves on - battling ancient foes, overcoming perilous puzzles and discovering the magic within each other – all the way to the Pixar Emotional Ending (tm) that’ll leave you reaching for the tissues once again. They aren’t alone on the quest as they are joined by half of their father (the bottom half) as they race against time to see him in full one last time. It’s a gag that somehow works across the entirety of Onward even if it is slightly macabre (like a few other elements in the movie). This isn’t the funniest of Pixar flicks, but it more than makes up for its lack of jokes with a beat-up van full of heart.
Onward won’t completely tear your heart apart like Coco or Up, however, it packs a mighty emotional wallop that the narrative does well to build throughout. It may not be top-tier Pixar but it does deliver the complete Pixar package – beautiful visuals, an engaging story (whilst not being the strongest) and effective voice acting. It’s all there as you’d expect along with the signature magic (geddit?) that always accompanies a Pixar release. It’s another win for a special studio.
March 6th 2020