MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “Onward” is voiced by Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming, In the Heart of the Sea), Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld [TV series], Enough Said), Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water, The Shack), Mel Rodriguez (The Last Man on Earth [TV series], Little Miss Sunshine), Lena Waithe (Ready Player One, Master of None [TV series]), and Ali Wong (Always Be My Maybe, American Housewife [TV series]). It is directed by Dan Scanlon (Tracy, Monsters University), who also wrote it with Keith Bunin (Horns, In Treatment [TV series]) and Jason Headley (A Bad Idea Gone Wrong, To Say Goodbye [Short]). After bringing only half of their deceased father back to life with a spell, two brothers go on a journey to retrieve a crystal with the power to finish what they started.
What makes a Pixar film? That’s the question I found myself asking when I saw the trailer for “Onward.” There’s certainly a plehtora of YouTube videos on the matter, but when it comes to the overall feeling evoked by Pixar classics such as “Toy Story,” “The Incredibles,” and “Monsters Inc.” it’s tough to say where that pizazz derives from. Maybe my answer lies in the fact that the magic instilled by these films at an early age can never be recaptured, given how a portion of a viewer’s criticism of a feature rides on their experience with it. “Onward” didn’t look like a Pixar movie to me. It teetered into the Disney side of things, and I found myself not having the desire to see it in theaters… until I watched it, on one of the remaining days a theater was open in Los Angeles amidst the corona epidemic. Sure enough, the film was better than I expected, with a cool twist on the road trip story and quite a few surprising laughs that turned into hysterics (from time to time). Touting around Marvel giants Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as animated brothers, “Onward” gives an audience a fun, magical adventure filled with mythical creatures, sorcery, and a beat-up van. The design, in pure Pixar fashion, is genuis. It’s a sprawling atmosphere, characters, and lighting work are awesome; reminiscent of “Monsters Inc.” I might add. The voices lent to these figures were solid, with some notable actors giving life to them. It’s always a treat having Holland and Pratt onscreen to some extend (whether real or animated), and they had good chemistry together (no shocker). It was also nice to have Mel Rodriguez in this; his presence taking hold of a horse was hilarious, giving way to great physical humor. The adventure “Onward” presents is an entertaining one, filled with enough action and conflict to keep any viewer invested. However, what hurts the movie the most is its lack of a core theme. Typically, the beginning of a film reflects/alludes to the theme of the feature you are watching. In “Toy Story,” Andy playing with Woody set up his selfishness and what he would have to overcome when Andy finds another toy to play with. “Monsters Inc.” sets up the world of monsters, and the misconception the populace has over children, which will eventually have to be overcome. With “Onward,” we are introduced to Holland’s Ian Lightfoot, who wishes to see his father that died when he was a baby. The audience understands that the journey Ian and his brother Barley (Pratt) take throughout the flick will lead to him meeting his father and having that conversation he’s always wanted to have. But, the writers don’t want things to end up the way its planned. I won’t relay what the conclusion holds, but I will say that, while a touching turn of events, the switch of themes only diminishes the overall product; mainly because the seed wasn’t really planted for this theme at the beginning. Sure, there are moments that could hint to it, but it’s tough to say that it actually feeds into the overall story, rather than just setting up characters. By the time the end of “Onward” came, I was a tad disappointed because I was robbed of what I was promised. Some may argue that this makes the film fresh/unpredictable, but that does not justify what was set up. Regardless of this fact, “Onward” is a fun picture for the family. It offers great laughs, a cool score, and an adventure that will surely entertain. While it doesn’t match Pixar’s classics, it makes for a good night at the movies. If only COVID-19 wasn’t keeping everyone from the theater. FINAL SCORE: 83%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer:
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