Animation,  Film

Onward Review – Working Hard but Hardly Working?

Disney/Pixar’s latest adventure is an interesting one. This is their first non-sequel film in three years (Coco being the last), and it takes place in a fantasy world. It’s always a blast to see what Pixar does with their films, and thankfully, Onward is another solid outing.

We follow two teenage brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt), as they receive a wizard’s staff giving them the power to see their deceased father one last time. The staff is missing a magical gem and that’s when the real quest begins. The lead characters in Ian and Barley are both really strong, and play off of each other well. Pratt and Holland’s chemistry makes them feel like actual brothers. However, I wish we spent more time establishing Pratt’s character. He’s a bit one-note and I just spent the entire time hoping we’d get more.

The world they’ve built is the classic fantasy design but with that Pixar twist. Elves, wizards, dragons, and unicorns all roam the earth but now live in the suburbs and act like normal humans. Onward takes that fantasy idea and flips it on its head, and while it makes for an interesting story, it leaves me wanting a proper fantasy film from the studio.

That’s a major problem with this film. It’s good and I don’t want to undersell that, but it’s lacking that hook. I enjoyed it while watching it but I will likely never see it again. Something I would never say about the Toy Story films, Coco, Inside Out, and most of the others. The film is below Pixar’s standards, but they set the bar so high that I can’t fault them for it. If this movie was from Illumination it probably wouldn’t feel so underwhelming.

The film starts out a bit slow as they try and build the world and the characters. It’s enjoyable but the end of the second act is when things get into high gear. We set up various characters such as Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), The Manticore (Octavia Spencer), and Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez). Again, the ending is a gut punch and the slow burn is what makes it all worth it in the end. The issue is that it might be too slow of a burn.

The film’s at its strongest when we explore the world and the characters. The pacing is a little slow but that’s part of the journey. Onward is not a home run, but it is a base hit. We get fun characters and an emotional story which is classic Pixar. Still, not entertaining as their other outings.

Onward hits theaters March 6th, 2020.

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