REVIEW: “Onward” Has Its Moments, But It Is Far From Pixar’s Best – Now Available on Disney+

Jessica Figueroa

REVIEW: “Onward” Has Its Moments, But It Is Far From Pixar’s Best – Now Available on Disney+

Jessica Figueroa

REVIEW: “Onward” Has Its Moments, But It Is Far From Pixar’s Best – Now Available on Disney+

Editor’s Note: We first ran this review back when the movie began its ultimately short-lived premiere at the box office, right before COVID-19 caused the closure of theaters worldwide. With “Onward” debuting today on Disney+, we figure more of you have now gotten to see it, and would like to weigh in on what you think of the movie. Check out what our resident movie critic Joe Hogarty thought about Pixar’s latest film in the review below.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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8 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Onward” Has Its Moments, But It Is Far From Pixar’s Best – Now Available on Disney+”

  1. Yes, I agree! I think I was expecting the combination of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt to be AMAZING! I think my expectations were just too high. The SECOND time I saw it, I really enjoyed it. So, it may have been more an expectation that the movie was going to be “Star Lord meets Spider man” that messed it up for me. They are both so personable, even through masks, I was expecting an 11 out of 10. But your 7 of 10 was spot on! :-)

  2. I watched it today first thing because I was really looking forward to this movie. Even though it may not be the best I thought it was pretty entertaining. It’s weird to have the two main characters interact with a pair of pants for most of the movie but it’s refreshing to have an original story.

  3. I loved the bond between the two brothers most of all. I love my little brother so that made the movie special to me.

  4. I really enjoyed the movie. As a mom I laughed and cried. It helped start the conversation of death. When I went to the Disney store most of the Onward merchandise was sold out. It was easy to follow and relatable. If a child has a dead parent and they come back to life for a day, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind bonding with whatever body part was available. My daughter is not easy to please so I was shocked to know she actually liked it. Not to mention the movie wasn’t as much of a sing a long like others so as a parent I enjoyed that. How often does a mom help save the day? Onward gets a 10/10

  5. I find this review to be a bit…. Critical for a then given score of 7/10. Perhaps it’s because of the critics lack of personal experience or emotional connection with the plot, and that is fair since it’s a smaller demographic of kids who have lost a parent when they were young (actually lost and not run off), but still the underlying empathy exists for the circumstance. It seems a bit off to say a journey was “too long,” when journeys aren’t typically short. If you want a short journey, go watch one. Onward never promised that. The only elements from Monsters Inc. I found was perhaps the similarity to the lack of humans and excess monsters (which aren’t really monsters as they are legendary creatures with obvious demographics of their own). Other than that it completely lacks anything related to Monsters and either story besides tear filled moments. And if you don’t find the twists and turns and magic to be wonderfilled and awe-inspiring, then maybe there isn’t a lil magic in you!

  6. I wholeheartedly disagree with this review. I thought the animation was great and the adventure was fun. The characters that Ian and Barley meet are both entertaining and interesting, and while they lack the same level of development and potential for audience attachment found in other Pixar movies, I believe this only enhances the focus on Ian and Barley’s developing relationship. The magic, including the dad’s legs, was fun and refreshing. And the underlying moral is touching and relevant. Onward is one of the top Pixar films, in my opinion.

  7. I fully agree with this review. We just watched it last night on Disney+. To be honest when you’re watching a movie at home, pausing it at times to make popcorn, let the dogs in from the rain…. the movie does not get your total attention as it would in a theater. But overall I kept thinking of the same things this review points out. The “spells” just kept reminding me of Harry Potter (why the need to use Latin? – there’s suppose to be a history to these characters and town so why not have a made-up language?). Overall yes, the brotherly relationship was very good, but not much else. What bothered us the most (my 13-year old daughter) was that there was not the typical Pixar payoff at the end (it was more a minor payoff). Not going to give the end away, but for us the “moment” just was not there.

    Watching the show “Disney Insider” on Disney+ (before watching the movie) it was neat that the story is based on a somewhat true story of one of the producers and his brother. Overall a good PIxar movie, I do recommend it for sure, but for me not one of their best.

  8. Finally! A movie for brothers! Okay, maybe it’s not the first, but as one of four brothers (one who passed away when I was young), and having a very protective mother who always wants what’s best for us (even if my older brother was a little weird and a bit of a bum), I found it easy to relate to this story. Also, as a gamer in my younger days, I could relate well to the Manticore’s life choices. It’s sometimes hard to look back at your life to see how you got to be where you are. Sure, the Dad character was weird, but that was part of the charm of the movie…you had to buy into the premise of a world where magic exists.

    Is the animation jaw-dropping like Finding Nemo? No, but the quest does for brothers what Nemo did for dads and all makes sense in the end. Ian’s choice is one any good brother would have made.

    I would put it up there with most Pixar films, just not in the all-time greats. My biggest disappointment about the film was how poorly marketed it was….they tried to make it a Star Lord & Spiderman play D&D together film. I had no desire to see it in a theater, and was pleasantly surprised when I did watch it. I give it 8.5/10

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