Review | ‘Onward’ Holds Its Own Alongside Pixar’s Finest

The reputation of Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios has truly become unprecedented.

Boasting an incredible track record of making acclaimed, animated movies (e.g., Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Cars, Wall-E), the expectations are higher than they’ve ever been for Pixar’s future.

Enter Onward.

This is a movie set in a suburban fantasy world, involving the likes of deadly curses and magical spells that many thought were lost in the past. The journey of two guys–the Lightfoot Brothers–who go on an epic quest to see their dad, who passed away, one last time before it’s too late. (With spells and magic, they can do that.) 

With that story, does the impressive track record of Pixar Animations continue?


The Lightfoot Brothers

Anyone who’s seen a Pixar movie knows the importance of their films centering on a heart-felt relationship. In Onward, this comes in the shape of two brothers in the starring roles, Ian Lightfoot (played by rising star Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (played by the always hilarious, Chris Pratt).

The chemistry these two possess is impalpable. Fully committed to their roles, you immediately sense the fun they had portraying the troublesome elves. Characters that, despite appearing as polar opposites, band together with a common goal–to see their dad.

Ian Lightfoot, the youngest of the two brothers, is still in high school and struggling to make friends. He only dreams of being confident enough to turn his shy life around. He was too young to remember anything about his father, so when fate gives him the chance of a lifetime to cast a spell and see his father, he jumps at the opportunity.

tom Holland Ian_LightfootTom Holland nails the role, juggling heartfelt emotion with awkward humor perfectly.

It’s a joy to watch his character progress from a loner shy kid into a confident and powerful wizard as the movie goes on.

Barley Lightfoot is the older, yet not necessarily more mature brother of Ian. Completely opposite to his younger brother, he is filled with confidence.

Unfortunately for Barley, he is seen as a screw-up. Finished with high school, Barley is struggling to find his place in the world. Avoiding reality and choosing to engulf himself in a fantasy world of magic and games, he insists they are based on true events from a time long ago, which gives him some sort of purpose.

Barley becomes the mentor to his brother with his knowledge of all things mystical and reminds us that family means everything as he protects Ian from the dangers of their quest.

Chris Pratt perfectly embodies the role of the big brother and is the focal point for most of the humor throughout the entire movie, which is a role filled with the same fun energy that fans of Pratt will immediately recognize from his other work.

The entire movie, from beginning to end, explores the ups-and-downs of their relationship with an emotional payoff sure to tug at the heart strings.

Supporting Characters

Onward certainly doesn’t disappoint with its colorful selection of fun and unique supporting characters. Although mostly focused on the journey of the two brothers, these other important characters are given plenty to do and are well utilized to help progress the story.

Stuck with only the bottom half of his body after a restoration spell goes wrong, the dad accompanies these two boys on a quest to bring him back fully with disastrously funny results. Equipped with nothing but his legs, the two brothers must work together to help navigate him across a world filled with dangerous cliffs and caverns.

One character that doesn’t just sit on the sidelines is the mother of the two boys, Laurel Lightfoot played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. When discovering her sons are walking into a curse of which they are completely unaware, she races against the clock to catch up to them and save them before they unleash a terrible plague into the world.

Not alone on her quest, she teams up with the hilarious character Corey played by Octavia Spencer who was a once terrifying, but now tamed, Manticore. She was once a feared monster, with the body of a lion and tail of scorpion and now yearns to return to the times where she instilled fear into her enemies.

Also in hot pursuit of the two brothers is the centaur policeman Colt Bronco, played by Mel Rodriguez who also coincidentally happens to be their mom’s new boyfriend. This creates a very interesting dynamic between the characters. Every character is fleshed out wonderfully in the fantastic world of Onward.

The World of Onward

Although it follows a formula that feels a little bit too familiar with what has been done in past Pixar movies, Onward has plenty of unique twists to make it feel entirely original.

Set in a modern day world, much like our own, it involves the likes of schools, mobile phones, and fast-food restaurants but with a more fantasy approach. It is a realm full of elves, wizards, trolls, and many more mythological creatures. A world that is evidently so rich in backstory, you will easily get lost in its magical charm as the characters defend themselves from the likes of angry pixies and ferocious dragons.

Visually, it is nothing short of breathtaking.

Pixar pulls out all the stops when it comes to animation making every scene vibrant and full of life. The people behind the film let their imaginations run wild to create an expansive new universe that could easily revisited whenever inspiration hits. 

Conclusion

onward scene

Pixar has another success on their hands as they once again create something that is funny and brimming with humanity. With a heartwarming message about family and the loss of loved ones, it is a movie suitable for all ages, reminding us about life and its roller coaster journey.

Onward casts a love spell with the charm of its unique characters with fantastic work from the entire voice cast who fully commit to the wonderful, wacky characters they portray.

If Tom Holland and Chris Pratt don’t work together again soon, it’ll be a mistake for all our sakes.

By developing a world full of wonder, that is explored in great detail, they have left the door open for any future quests the elvish Lightfoot brothers may need go on.

RATING: 85/100


All Images Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios/Pixar Animation

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