Onward Review — Pixar and Brotherhood

Every month Talkies follows a monthly theme! Today we’re going to talk about Onward, our second film with the theme of “ animation”.

Onward was co-written and directed by Dan Scanlon. Scanlon has been with Pixar since 2001 and also co-wrote and directed Monsters University. The film followed in the footsteps of Coco, The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out as Pixar’s new IP that was not associated with the old Pixar film franchises like Toy Story and Cars. I’m looking forward to seeing more standalone animated films from Pixar and hope that films like Onward and Soul are encouraged.

Onward takes place in a world where magic has disappeared. The world has forgotten about magic because the world just doesn’t need it, but much like film cameras, magic is making a comeback. This is where our two lead characters enter, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chriss Pratt) Lightfoot. Ian is quiet and shy and Barley is passionate and obsessed with all things magic. When Ian turns sixteen he gets a gift from his father and the story really begins. For now that’s all I’ll say about the plot, there are no huge “spoilers” but what happens next is best experienced going in blind.

So how was the film? Let’s start as always, with story.

During the past week I’ve thought alot about why I liked the film and I have a story of my own for you. I have a niece, and she is obsessed with the movie Trolls and all of its songs. The obsession she has for those animated films reminds me of my obsession with the Pixar and Disney films of my “younger years”. Much like my niece I was obsessed with The Lion King, Toy Story and Tarzan. I remembered the songs and I connected with the story in one way or another.

With Onward, I saw a film that a child me would’ve been obsessed with. A film focused on adventure, brotherhood and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Onward is a light romp that is sweet and fast paced. I don’t presume to say that the story is as good as the old classics that I mentioned, but that itself is irrelevant. The story connected with me as I saw Ian and Barley’s relationship grow, it connected with me as I saw the shadow of the father following them with every story beat and it connected with me in the final almost bittersweet ending that brought some reality back to the world of magic. In so many films, if you connect to the story the other aspects of the film almost disappear in the background, but this is Pixar, so how’d they do?

As standard with Pixar the film is animated extremely well and has little touches of background storytelling that are great. The film itself is more like The Good Dinosaur in terms of its animation, as it focuses on cartoonish characters in the realistic environment. Though the animation is extremely well done I found Soul’s animation more unique and interesting to watch. The sound, editing and cinematography are all appropriate, they don’t stand out or bog the film down. Overall the film is animated well, has a simple and effective story (at least for me) and has a unique setting to bring it all together.

FOR:

  • Fans of brotherhood and father related stories
  • Parents who want to watch a light fantasy adventure story with their Kids
  • Young adults like me who grew up with Pixar films

NOT FOR:

  • People who are looking for an original film that is a modern day classic( I suggest you watch Soul)
  • Anyone who thinks that they wouldn’t connect to the fantasy, brotherhood, coming of age and parental side of the story
  • Viewers who find the animation style of The Good Dinosaur and Onward a bit jarring

When I finished Onward, I knew that I had really liked it. There’s one scene in particular with a tape recorder, that I will think about for quite some time. Watching this film made me reevaluate the scales we use to judge films. I knew that the film probably wouldn’t be considered Pixar’s greatest work, or that it would be a modern day classic, what I did know was that didn’t matter. Onward was a great watch, and I recommend you watch it with or without the young ones.

FOUR STARS out of FIVE.