By: Ryan Farrell, Staff Writer
Disney Pixar’s newest film Onward was released into theaters in early March, however preventative measures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic closed theaters and prevented many from viewing it. As a result, Disney made a historic move and added it to their streaming service Disney+ less than a month after its initial release.
While Onward continues to represent Pixar’s reputation in the animation industry, its basic and predictable story holds it back from becoming a classic.
Onward takes place in a world where fantasy has clashed with the modern world. While magic used to be prevalent, a trend of societal advances has caused magic to become almost forgotten. On Ian Lightfoot’s sixteenth birthday, he and his elven brother Barley receive a magical staff from their father, accompanied by a visitation spell that can revive him for 24 hours. Since their father passed when Ian was young, he doesn’t have any memories of him. When Ian attempts the spell, he only manages to resurrect his father’s lower half. Determined to see their father one last time, the brother’s embark on a magical journey to complete the spell.
Onward’s strongest attribute is its stylized animation. It is Disney Pixar’s twenty second feature-length film and its presentation illustrates that it is the studio’s strong suit. This is especially true with facial animations, which are able to encapsulate the voice actor’s likeness. For example, Ian’s physicality and facial expressions are very similar to Tom Holland’s, which makes it feel as if he’s directly in the animation. This is all possible due to the animation’s detail and fast pace.
In addition, the animation creates vast realistic settings which often feel larger than life. Oftentimes it is difficult to differentiate it from the real thing. At this point in Pixar’s career, it would be surprising to see them produce anything less than this standard.
A major source of Onward’s comedic relief comes from Ian’s brother Barley Lightfoot. This secondary main character is voiced by Chris Pratt. While Pratt is a sufficient voice actor, a good amount of his humor tends to break up the pace of the film. Since Barley is a supporting character, he is almost in the entire movie. His loud banter is usually centered around concepts relating to Dungeons & Dragons. Because of this, audiences may tire of Pratt’s character quickly.
Onward’s linear story can make it feel uninspired at times. It hangs onto the road trip aspect and it doesn’t really go anywhere once their journey is complete. They do not really deviate from the basic plan and as a result, the film can be predictable. There are unique uses of comedic relief which does serve to make the pacing more interesting. Despite these instances, Onward remains linear, ultimately preventing it from being a Pixar classic.
Onward is currently streaming on Disney+.