Image result for onward

Onward is a sentimental ode to family, brotherhood and the pursuit of adventure. It’s hard to say Pixar has done it again when they so consistently deliver, but they have. 


Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) are a pair of elf brothers who are thrust into a quest when they receive a magic staff and a spell that can bring back their late father for a day. Ian has never met him and Barley has very few memories of his father before his death. Ian tries his hand at magic but ends up bringing back only his father’s legs. Ian and Barley have to find a magical gem to complete the spell before time runs out and they never get to see their father again.


 A lot of Pixar films have centered around the bond between a pair of characters (Toy Story, Cars, Up, Monsters Inc., etc.)  and even the dynamic between family (The Incredibles, Coco). But they have yet to explore the bond between brothers head-on. Onward, at its core, is about the relationship between Ian and Barley.  Ian, a socially awkward kid trying to be more like the father he never knew and Barley, an irresponsible, but likable screw-up, who adores Quests of Yore, a fantasy game comparable to that of something like Dungeons and Dragons. Together, they embark on a quest, just as perilous as it is cathartic. For Ian, a chance to finally see the man his father was and for Barley, a chance to finally say a proper goodbye. 


Pixar’s gift for storytelling is unmatched and sometimes when the storytelling and story perfectly align, you get a masterpiece from the studio. Onward isn’t quite that, but it’s not too far from it. After a seemingly endless onslaught of sequels from franchises like Toy Story, Incredibles, Cars, and Finding Nemo, it’s refreshing to see the team at Pixar delving into and functioning within a new world. Grounding a classical fantasy world in suburbia is an interesting and unique concept and Onward does a lot with it with countless sight gags that tinker with our ideas about countless fantasy genre tropes while also playing into them. The gimmick never impedes the story the film is telling. 


It’s a stripped-down adventure film far more interested in character than thrills. There’s an emphasis on the relationship between Ian and Barley and the changes they undergo on the journey greater than anything else in the story. Outside of Ian and Barley, the characters are pretty weak. Whenever the film shifts to spend time with characters like Laurel Lightfoot, Ian and Barley’s mom in pursuit of her sons, or the Manticore, a formerly monstrous creature who now runs a family restaurant, I struggled to maintain interest. While they are enjoyable to be around in the context of Ian and Barley’s story, I couldn’t help but wish that we were back with our protagonists on their quest.


In terms of genre, Onward is rather fluid. It adheres to many archetypes of the fantasy genre, but I’m not sure you could call it that, it consistently zigs and zags between comedy, adventure and heartfelt drama. At times, I felt unsure of where the story was headed but never felt I wasn’t in the hands of capable storytellers. The voice acting is very good. Holland bringing out the earnest awkwardness in Ian while Pratt is channeling many of the same man-childish sensibilities in Barley as his time on Parks and Recreation as Andy Dwyer.


Never doubt Pixar’s ability to make you cry.  Onward finds a profoundly moving message about the bond these brothers share within their fantastical journey. Onward has some supremely beautiful moments bound to put your tear ducts through a workout. Do yourself a favor and grab some tissues before heading out to see this one. Going off of the concept alone, I knew this movie was going to be a tearjerker, but Onward hit me in a way I wasn’t expecting and I have to applaud the folks behind this film for that.  And above all, the film is very entertaining. The quest has several fun setpieces to help pace out the journey and in this way, Onward narrowly avoids ever feeling monotonous. A car chase with a biker gang comprised of pixies is a real highlight.


Compelling, funny, and very sweet, Onward is a quest through a whole host of emotions that peaks with a beautiful, transcendent emotional coda that brought tears to my eyes.

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Twitter
  • RSS

Comments are closed.