By: Amanda Guarragi
Onward the magical tale of two teenage elf brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) Lightfoot, who embark on a journey to see if there is any magic left in their city, all while spending one last day with their late father. Ian finds out he has magical powers (like his father) and uses his father’s staff and a magical stone, to bring half of him back for one day. Writer and director Dan Scanlon wanted to create a film based off of his own experiences with his brother and the loss of his father. It had the right heart but not the right execution. Even though the film centered around finding magic, it was severely lacking the Pixar magic we all know and love.
This was the first Pixar movie that I’ve been seriously disappointed in because of how dull they made Ian and Barley. Chris Pratt’s whimsical voice and Tom Holland’s nerdy babbling couldn’t save this empty journey. The sentiment was there, two brothers wanting to spend one magical day with their deceased father but the simple journey they went on had no payoff at the end of this film. The entire film Ian and Barley spent time with only HALF of their father, the bottom half. They couldn’t talk to their own father for the entire day, they only communicated through touch and morse code. Again, the sentimental value was there because Barley had spent a couple of years with their father but Ian never got to know him.
The animation was also unimaginative and lacked the Pixar touch. I keep saying Pixar because their rendering technology was far superior, before Disney even picked them up. It just didn’t feel like a Pixar film and I can’t explain why, it just didn’t, I can’t put my finger on it. You just know that you’re watching a Pixar film, instead of a Disney film, you can’t explain it, you just know. Pixar’s animation was so incredibly special when it began all those years ago, but now with Disney’s influence, I’m afraid the type of calibre films that we are used to from Pixar, will begin to fade away. I know that Disney bought Pixar in 2006 and they gave us such incredible films, but the more powerful Disney gets, I’m afraid that the creative licensing with the acquired subsidiaries will suffer greatly.
Onward tries to make a heartfelt film between two brothers. The little brother Ian, realizes that even though he grew up without a father, he still shared his life with a father figure and he finds that in his older brother Barley. The simple quest they were on, was way too simple and nothing really exciting happened. The magic was basic and lacked flare. Also, there was no connection to the father, who also had these powers. Ian and his father had a connection through magic, yet he never had an emotional moment with his father. There was a disconnect because there was no conversation being had between father and son.
As you watch this film and sit through the dry humour, you wonder if Ian and Barley will eventually get to see the top half of their father. The ending left a bitter taste in my mouth and I’m not one for spoilers, but it was infuriating to watch what happens to these brothers and their father. It could have been such a beautiful moment but it was ruined by a very strange moral choice based off of a new realization.
I wanted this to be better but the story lacked direction and meaning. Yes, it’s sentimental but when you throw it together and try to interfere those key emotional moments with humour that is so dense, it just ends up being a forgettable film. Other than a half magical man walking around, Onward was just another film on the slate with two actors that should have had more chemistry than they did.