Pixar has been responsible for some of the great family films that have ever been released but they have been pretty focused on sequels recently. They haven’t released an original film since 2017’s Coco and that was a massive hit with everyone. So, it’s safe to say that Onward had a lot to live up to. Pixar has never been afraid to experiment with styles and show children the harsh realities of life. Let’s not forget that Inside/Out offered a better analysis of mental health than anyone had before. Unlike Disney, Pixar is always trying to change the game and do something different. Well, they did before they decided to keep going back to the same old characters and do the same old things. Surely Onward was going to be something special. Plus, it stars Chris Pratt and Tom Holland fresh off of their Endgame high. At the very least, it was something to take notice of.
Onward continues Pixar’s tradition of creating new and fantastic worlds. We are introduced to a fantasy world full of elves, centaurs, imps, and manticores. In the past, the world was full of magic and adventure. Unfortunately, people soon started to realise that there were easier ways of doing things and the world modernised. Horses were replaced by cars, candles became electricity, and adventures were played out in games and not reality. When he turns 16, Ian Lightfoot believes that his biggest challenge will be inviting people to his birthday party. Little does he know.
Ian’s father died just before he was born and he was raised by his mother and older brother, Barley. When they were both of age, their mum was instructed by their father to give them a parcel. Inside there is a wizard staff, a magical stone, and a spell to bring their father back for 24-hours. Turns out, Ian’s father hoped that his sons would have the potential to be great wizards. Thankfully for him, Ian has the gift but something goes wrong. Ian and Barley are facing a day spent with their dead father’s legs unless they can replace the rare gem. Barley, a fan of role-playing games, leads his brother on the biggest quest of their lives. All while being chased by their mother and her police officer boyfriend. Can they get to the stone before it’s too late?
Onward is a sweet film with a very fun premise. It takes a similar narrative to one’s Pixar has used countless times before but brings a new sense of adventure to proceedings. Yes, we’ve seen animated films where two key characters set off on a dangerous and emotional journey before but that just means Pixar know how to work off it. The simplistic plot allows the studio to stuff the film with plenty of silly sight gags, clever puns. It’s a formula that works and the super-fast pace of Onward really gets things going. Every aspect of the narrative builds and builds into a super satisfying and sweet ending. It might not be ripping up the rule book but Onward is a solid piece of entertainment.
Something that is absolutely helped by its cast. Chris Pratt and Tom Holland are fabulous as the two brothers at the centre of the quest. They bring effortless humour and banter to the roles but give it plenty of heart. They are aided by a fantastic Julia Louis-Dreyfus as their mother and Octavia Spencer as a manticore who has turned her back on adventures. This is a film full of larger than life characters who provide enough silliness to keep children entertained but it isn’t afraid to get serious at the same time. Onward might not be quite a good as Coco or Inside/Out for teaching children lessons about death and sadness but it delivers a good message. A message that resonates enough that I was weeping by the end.
It might not be the greatest Pixar movie you’ve ever seen but, being the first standalone movie we’ve had in a while, it shows that Pixar still has it. It offers everything that we’ve come to expect from the studio and is definitely one of the all-out funniest animated films I’ve seen in years. It’ll be a hit with audiences of all ages I’m sure.