Back in the 90s, I absolutely loved the TOY STORY films and I’ve been able to see almost every Pixar film in theaters since then. Even sitting through cash grabs like CARS 2, I knew there would always be originality from them on the horizon. From MONSTERS INC. to COCO, this is a company that knows how to tug at your heartstrings in all the right ways, working nearly every time in my opinion. ONWARD in their latest theatrical release and I believe they’ve done it again. Although I wouldn’t put it in the conversation of being one of their top five movies, that’s also a very difficult list to crack, so I’ll just have to settle with calling this one great instead of amazing. Oh, what a pain.
ONWARD follows Ian and Barley Lightfoot, two brothers who lost their father. Barley being the eldest has a few memories with him, but Ian was never able to spend time with him, as he passed away before he was born. This film takes place in a world like our own, but it’s inhabited by mythical creatures. Magic does exist, but it has been long forgotten about. On Ian’s 16th birthday, his mother gifts him a staff that his father left behind for him. Along with the staff is a list of spells, one of which will allow them to bring their father back for 24 hours. Accidentally only bringing back his legs, they venture on a quest to find a gem that will be able to bring the rest of him back.
This is a story that has been done many times in different ways, so you may find the ending slightly predictable, but how they showcase the climactic events actually surprised and impressed me. Nothing really went exactly how I thought it would, but it was all very effective, fun, and incredibly emotional. If for nothing else, I praise this film for winning me over on multiple occasions. I found myself latching onto these two brothers and I was in tears by the final act. As I said, Pixar knows how to tug at your heartstrings, but it is usually always earned, and ONWARD is no exception.
Director and co-writer Dan Scanlon is really the reason this film exists in the first place. His actual father in real life passed away when he was very young and he has no memory of him. This fact actually made me like the film even more, because it really did feel like it was coming from a real place. The way this film wraps up, even with the mythological aspects at play, felt very real and was shown as if what they were doing was actually possible. I found how everything played out to be incredibly moving.
Overall, ONWARD may not be one of Pixar’s very best movies, but it’s still a great, moving film that I will probably recommend as one of the better movies of 2020 later in the year. Chris Pratt and Tom Holland are very enjoyable as the voice leads and the animation is stellar as always. It almost seems pointless to talk about how great the visuals are in these movies when reviewing it because you just know Disney won’t release anything that isn’t top-notch in terms of animation. ONWARD is a film that is aimed at a younger audience, but it really is an adult story through and through. I might not be able to call it amazing or refer to it as a masterpiece, but I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t say that I absolutely loved watching it. This one gets a big recommendation from me.