Onward to Adventure and Outstanding Heart: Movie Review

Onward
Onward to Adventure and Outstanding Heart: Movie Review
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism and Performing Arts from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Disney and Pixar’s Onward is an adventurous delight that’s going to dazzle your entire family. Don’t be fooled by it’s hokey premise or colourful gloss – this is far superior to your standard animated entertainment. And it’s well worth seeing it in theatres.

Each element is expertly crafted making a well-rounded and well produced feature film. A likeable voice cast goes beyond the celebrity names in the title roles. And the animated effects (especially those clouds!) are awe-inspiring.

The plot follows elf brothers Ian and Barley (Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) on a quest to fix a spell. They live in something of a fantasy world with a Sim City metropolis twist, but if they can find a special gem, they get to spend a day with the father they lost as young boys.

Pixar hasn’t made an original title since 2017’s Coco, and this new quest movie reinforces the concept the studio is best when it creates brand-new works. (Even better, Pixar offers us another new idea with Soul this June.)

There’s a lot of foreshadowing, and while most of it leads where you expect it to, not all of it does. The screenplay is easygoing so you correctly guess why the driving lessons and spell casting is important, and then it ends up working in multi-layered, complex ways.

Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

Having intricately woven stories with surprises in plain sight are part of the fabric that makes Pixar films universally admired. Onward feels immensely like old-school Pixar, in the likes of A Bug’s Life or the original Toy Story. A simple premise and strong ensemble of characters had (and have) a powerful impact.

The title ingeniously alludes to more than one thing. At its core, Onward is an adventure about two brothers at odds with their father from the past and an uncertain future. More importantly, it teaches us how to go onward when we don’t know how.

Following 2013’s Monsters University, Scanlon’s first film at Pixar, his sophomore feature shares an interesting similarity. Both of them begin rather expectedly as an animated movie might, but then something happens in the last 20 minutes, when an ending sticks the landing.

Onward pulls off the same miracle. What starts as benign and charming ends with a brilliant wallop – it’s one of the biggest cries I’ve ever had in a movie theatre, and a happy one to boot. The film only gets better and better, with a massive emotional bang at the end.

Isn’t that one of the things that makes Pixar so iconic? Fantastic animated worlds, fascinating ideas, and ingenious stories written by some of the best writers in Hollywood. It’s all family friendly; truly equally entertaining for all ages.

It doesn’t hit the transcendent mastery of the lofty best in Pixar’s history, but there’s nearly nothing wrong with it – and it will go onward as one of the greats.

Onward

8.5 out of 10
G, 1hr 43mins. Animated Family Fantasy Adventure.
Co-written and Directed by Dan Scanlon.
Starring Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez and Kyle Bornheimer.

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