Pixar has an incredible record, with many 5-star movies in their portfolio, so when I saw they were making a high-fantasy epic adventure with the voice talents of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, I was beyond excited. Could this movie live up to that potential?
Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is turning sixteen, though he doesn’t really have any friends to celebrate with. He has his family though, including his brother Barley (Chris Pratt) and mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). His father passed away before Ian was born, so it’s amazing when his mother reveals a gift that their father left, for when he turned sixteen. It’s a magic wand, along with a spell that can bring their father back for 24 hours. This starts an epic adventure to complete the spell, as it’s halted halfway, leaving their father with only a bottom half. Throughout the journey, they encounter the legendary Manticore (Octavia Spencer), a biker gang of dangerous pixies, and plenty of riddles and puzzles to slow them down.
As Frozen has become a staple for sisters, so too will Onward be an important film for brothers. Brozen: Frozen for Brothers. Its best moments are between Pratt and Holland’s characters, really exploring the complicated nature of brothers, especially in the absence of a father figure. This is an incredibly emotional journey, but this is a Pixar film so you should expect that much.
If the emotional journey of two brothers doesn’t catch your attention, then how about an epic fantasy adventure? I never thought I’d see a mainstream film like this, featuring a Manticore, voiced by an Academy Award-winning actress. For fantasy fans, or even moreso Dungeons & Dragons fans, this is an absolute love letter and a joy to watch.
In terms of voice acting, this is obviously a highlight for both Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, delivering incredibly authentic performances. Chris Pratt’s performance is much more over the top, but it totally gels with the character he’s playing, so it works.
For fans of Pixar, this very much hits the same notes and should satisfy in the same ways. It’s a safe bet if you’ve enjoyed their other films, no doubt.
What didn’t work?
For a Pixar film, I maybe expected more in terms of visuals. I mean, look at the above picture. Does the Manticore (the flying lion on the right) look especially good? No, it looks like a lower-tier straight-to-streaming animated film. There’s a few examples of that sort of lapse in quality that felt very un-Pixar to me.
And like I mentioned in the positives section, this feels very familiar in terms of tone and structure. Some of you may find that tiring, some may be okay with that. There’s only a few risks taken, most of this journey feels like standard fare.
This is right up my alley. A sentimental Pixar movie with a fantasy theme. It’s got great voice acting, a touching story, and plenty to enjoy, but even I’ll admit it’s not the best Pixar has put out recently. A great time, but temper your expectations and enjoy this for what it is.