Review: Pixar’s “Onward” Good, Not Great

movie fails to live up to Pixar standards

Zach King, Reporter

As the 22nd full-length feature-film from legendary movie studio Pixar, “Onward” had many expectations to live up to when it entered the theaters.

Pixar produced some of the most influential animated movies of all time. In fact, they made 10 out of the 20 highest rated animated movies on Rotten Tomatoes. After seeing “Onward,” I came out of the theater satisfied with the movie experience, yet dissatisfied with the Pixar experience.

“Onward” follows the adventures of two troll brothers living in a human-like world. The introduction explains how their world used to be magical and wondrous, but people discovered modern electricity was a way around magic. After that, the world became less magical and more like modern-day earth.

When Ian, voiced by Tom Holland, turns 16-years-old, his mom gives him a gift his deceased father left for him. The gift reveals itself as a magic stick, crystal and note from his dad. With an incantation, Ian and his brother realize their dad can come back as a spirit-being for an entire day.

Ian’s brother Barley, voiced by Chris Pratt, is a misfit obsessed with a Dungeons and Dragons style game based on the past centuries of the Onward world. He attempts to do the spell for hours but eventually, they give up.

 Later, Ian tries, and the magic starts working. However, he only summons the bottom half of his father, forcing the brothers to go on a quest to find a new crystal and finish the spell before 24-hours pass.

This plot is very simple, yet intriguing. The movie spends the majority of its first act going through “Zootopia” style scenes that show non-humans doing human-like things. Only this time, rather than animals, they’re magical beings. 

The different species are supposedly representing different races. Trolls, fairies, minotaurs and other magical beings all speak the same language and do the same things. There are some species that don’t act like humans, such as dragons being dogs and unicorns being rabid dogs. 

As soon as the second act starts, the pace of the movie starts speeding up. The brothers go on a “Dumb and Dumber” style road-trip, except replace Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels with troll versions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spiderman and Star-Lord. Holland and Pratt provide lots of funny jokes and intriguing sequences, and it’s effective in its character building. 

In the third act, there is more character building and the ending is simple but exciting. Something that the movie fails to do is get the most out of its world. All the movie does is show scenes with magical beings, traps or landmarks that the characters utilize or get past to continue on their quest. Instead of making scenarios out of the entire world as a whole, the movie goes from one thing to the next, and then never revisits it again.  

Another flaw of the movie is the way it treats the family relationships. The emotional conflicts feel empty considering the brothers’ dad is only his bottom half. The movie does not even let the full-version of the dad have any screen time even though the characters repeatedly mention and show pictures of him. I only wanted to see the dad to see Ian and Barley happy, but I was out of luck.

Overall, “Onward” is a great watch, but compared to other Pixar movies, it’s one of the worst ones. It’s entertaining enough to keep you interested during the hour and a half or so runtime, but not memorable enough for you to keep thinking about it soon after you watch it.