Onward Review: Pixar’s Urban Fantasy is a Full-Hearty Adventure!
Updated: Sep 22
When it comes to fantasy the realms of magic have been defined with the likes of elves, trolls and dragons; and these beings have continuously played a role in stories for many years be it in novels or movies. So what happens when you take these mythical creatures and you modernize them? That is the question that surrounds the latest film from Pixar: Onward. Directed by Dan Scanlon, Onward takes a fantasy world and puts a modern spin on it by having the likes of elves and gnomes in an urban society. While this idea is not original, this new animated film still managed to peak my curiosity with its promising adventure. I ventured to the theater to see this magical quest for myself, and while it may not enchant Onward is indeed one of Pixar’s more enlightening films in recent years.
The story centers on Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland), a teenage elf, who embarks on a quest with his brother Barley (Chris Pratt) after they discover a spell that can bring their disease father back for one day. The plot to this animated tale was an adventure filled with entertainment and morality, but it was also a journey that took a simplistic path. Truth be told the plot was rather straightforward, particularly in the beginning, as its points felt too narrow in delivery. Along with this direction was the plot’s world building which ended up being a double edged sword for the movie. While the story keeps true to its concept of an urban fantasy, it felt like the plot was too reliant on this idea which held it back creatively. Yet despite its missteps the plot does conjures up many merits. Along with the narrative getting better as things play out, the most effective element to this tale was its strong center. When it came down to it this quest was a story of two brothers and the importance of their bond. For this reason the plot was not just an outrageous adventure, but an endearing coming of age story that had a lot of heart to it-though being an outrageous adventure did not hurt things either.
The cast of Onward was an enjoyable group of characters. When it came to the two brothers, both Ian and Barley were both compelling leads and a fantastic duo. In Ian’s case the young elf had an understandable progression, as well as dilemma, and Holland showed off his range with his energetic performance. As for Barley his personal quest was lacking but his personality made up for it, and the enthusiastic performance from Chris Pratt brought a lot of life to this bumbling,but lovable, elf. Together the siblings made for a captivating pair with Holland and Pratt having a natural chemistry with each other. Along with the two young heroes was a supporting cast rich with character. From Laurel Lightfoot (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) to Corey the Manticore (Octivia Spencer) the supporting characters had a lot of personality to them which showcased the movie’s strongest attribute. Onward utilized its cast so effectively that even a pair of legs brought something special to this magical adventure.
The film’s animation was exceptional. While its design was simple, the animation was efficient with its use of effects and bright colors. The direction in the animation was also effective in creating a tone that had a sense of wonder and a sense of humor. Speaking of comedy, the movie’s humor was surprisingly good as its adequate timing led to several hilarious moments which balanced well with the film’s serious scenes. Rounding things out for the movie was the music by Mychael and Jeff Dana which was fitting to say the least. While the score could have been stronger in certain areas, the music complimented the movie well by capturing both the adventure and magic to this urban fantasy.
Though it could be bumpy, Onward found its way to become a delightful adventure. While its journey could get lost in execution, the movie managed to cast away these issues by having a fun sense of adventure as well as a wonderful cast of characters. Along with its keen animation and humorous delivery, Onward was a quest worthy of its genre and studio; and if nothing else this animated venture was simply a full-hearty cinematic experience.