Onward (2020) – Film Review

Searching For Your Purpose

Onward may not be the best title Pixar have produced in their illustrious catalogue, but it’s a very good film nonetheless. The fantasy setting, lovable characters and trademark Disney humour run right the way through this film, making it a really heartwarming and enjoyable family flick.

The story predominantly revolves around two elf brothers – Ian and Barley Lightfoot. Living in the shadow of their Father’s death, Ian finds himself struggling to move on and desperate for more time with his Father in order to help find some purpose for his life. On his 16th birthday Ian gets his wish, in the form of a present from his deceased Father holding a spell to bring him back for 24 hours.

Unfortunately the spell goes awry and what follows is a journey that sees both brothers cross the world to try and find a phoenix stone to complete the spell, accompanied by the legs of their Father. This sets up the foundation for a wondrous, fantastical journey to follow as the two brothers learn hidden secrets within themselves while learning about the power of friendship, belief and inner-strength in the process.

On paper, Onward is a very straight forward tale, far away from the imagination of Inside Out or the ingenious ideas surrounding monsters in Monsters Inc. For a world starved of magic, Onward is a good reflection of Pixar’s own magic here – available in fleeting displays of brilliance but otherwise restricted by so many amazing films before it.

Aesthetically though Onward looks fantastic. The colours pop, the character models are realistically depicted and the hair and particle effects have come a long, long way since the early days of the aforementioned Monsters Inc. There’s a great family adventure at the core of this one though and Onward does a good job making sure this story is as vibrant and colourful as possible right the way through the 100 minute run-time.

My 7 and 10 year olds were absolutely glued to the screen the entire time, with plenty of slapstick moments dotted throughout to break up the darker or more sombre segments. One moment in particular comes during the third act of the film, garnering a lot of laughs from the audience in the process; a reminder that Pixar can still deliver the goods after all this time.

Due to the nature of the story and the overwhelming themes about family and inner-belief, the sub-plot involving The Manticore and the Lightfoot brothers’ Mother aren’t as strong as the main conflict, with the final fight feeling a little too formulaic in nature, ticking a box to make sure there’s a big, climactic fight at the end rather than something the film had naturally been building up to.

Despite this though, Onward is a really enjoyable and tightly written film. The characters have great arcs right the way and the two brothers at the heart of this one have some great chemistry. There’s a good amount of foreshadowing and juxtaposing imagery here that hold up to repeat viewings but those expecting something with the same power as earlier Pixar films may be left disappointed. The magic is still here though but it’s not quite as strong as it once was.


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  • Verdict - 8/10

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