I love when Pixar opts for the more risky option of doing something new, as opposed to taking the easy road and just delivering a sequel with a built-in audience that will generate some nice big box office bucks. Pixar, for the most part, is always at its best when it provides original stories and content. But there are times when the magic just doesn’t work. An example would be The Good Dinosaur. That movie was original, but in no way would you label that a Pixar classic. And neither is Onward.
What does work in Onward is the bond that is shared between the two brothers, Ian and Barley. Both Tom Holland and Chris Pratt do an excellent job voicing the main characters and you do buy that they really are brothers and that they really do care for each other. The journey has more to do with the brothers working together, recognizing and relying on each other’s strengths and finding out things about each other that they never knew. Julia Louis-Dreyfus lends her voice as the boys’ mom, and she conveys a sense of genuine caring as the head of the Lightfoot household.
What was disappointing for me is that Onward started off fine, but the journey took way too long and it was just not interesting. This movie really drags at times. You just know that as soon as the two brothers get out of one predicament, another one is right around the corner. And another and another. It also doesn’t help that most of the characters that they meet along their journey are just not interesting.
Another issue is the half-missing father character just didn’t work for me. This whole part of the story reminded me of Weekend At Bernie’s. It’s just weird to watch Ian and Barley try to communicate with a pair of pants for most of the movie. Can you imagine if they designed Olaf to be a snowman without a head for the whole time during Frozen? That would not work for that film and neither does the father’s lower half in Onward.
As far as animation goes, I just don’t think it looks as impressive as many of Disney and Pixar movies have in the past. All of the characters designs just are not memorable and I can’t see kids wanting to have any of these characters on their lunchboxes. They really could have done such a better job with the animation, but the characters just seem a bit abstract, and with no real thought behind their design.
Even though Onward is an original story, it borrows heavily from a lot of other well-known movies. Director Dan Scanlon previously directed Monsters University and there is definitely a sense of deja vu that reminds you of his previous film. Onward not only borrows from Monsters University, but you will also see a lot that will remind you of Finding Nemo, Shrek, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and even Back To The Future. This movie just feels like it was rushed and that they never had a real concept for it. It is as if this movie was designed just to bring Tom Holland and Chris Pratt together to play off each other. And it does succeed with that part, but not much anything else.
The nicest surprise was the short that plays before the feature. It is a Simpsons short called “Playdate With Destiny” that focuses on Maggie Simpson and her first romance with a fellow toddler. It is a charming tale that for me was more entertaining than the main feature, but maybe a little too short. Even though there are other familiar characters from The Simpsons around, it seems as though Disney was unwilling to pay for their voices, as they all remind silent. And although they definitely try to push throughout the short that The Simpsons are now part of the Disney family, it’s still going to take me a while to get used to it.
Maybe some kids will enjoy this movie, especially if they are easy to please, but classic Disney and Pixar movies have always been the ones that were able to keep both children and adults entertained and transcend all ages. Onward is just not that kind of movie. This movie does do a good job at pulling at your heartstrings at times, but the journey along the way is just too long and uninteresting.
I give Onward a 7/10.