My Thoughts: ONWARD (2020)

Onward was the first of two Pixar films set to debut in 2020 with the other being Soul. It was clear from the marketing that the emphasis was placed on Soul as the superior film as well as the higher grosser.

Onward grossed only $103 million at the box office against a $175-$200 million budget, but this has been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic closing movie theaters. As a result, Onward was released to Disney+ early on March 20. What did I think of the film? Read on to find out!

Mild spoilers ahead!

Onward takes place in a universe wherein legendary creatures like elves, goblins, manticores, and centaurs exist. They once possessed knowledge of magic centuries ago, but due to a “scientific revolution”, magic was soon forgotten.

“Let there be light!”

Centuries later, these creatures evolved to become normal, everyday, suburbian citizens, including our protagonists. Ian Lightfoot, voiced by Tom Holland, is an elf turning 16 and lives with his mother, Laurel, voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and older brother, Barley, voiced by Chris Pratt. Ian is a shy, awkward teen and hopes that this coming birthday will change things. Barley, on the other hand, is outgoing, social, and obsessed with their universe’s magical past.

Ian is gifted a magical staff left for him by his late father who passed away before I an was born. Barley realizes that their father dabbled in wizardry and has left a visitation spell that will allow him to return briefly. Ian has always wanted to meet his father, so is excited about this, but something goes wrong with the spell causing only the bottom half of their father, i.e. just legs, to return. It’s up to Ian and Barley to go on a quest to find a Phoenix Gem that will allow them to restore their father fully before the spell is broken.

When that barber heard “Take a little off the top”, he just didn’t know when to stop, huh?

I like the overall idea of the film. It’s interesting to see what would it be like if legendary, mythical creatures actually lived in a normal, modern society. We get to see how they would have evolved to normal life, what sort of challenges their body structures would present, which creatures would have evolved to become pests, etc.

Graceless unicorns are so wrong!

But, I was underwhelmed with the story. I felt there wasn’t anything amazing about it and it basically became a brotherly bonding/road trip movie. There’s nothing wrong with that, so to speak, but I felt the way it was manifested in this film could have used a few more tweaks.

The voice acting was great with Tom Holland convincing us that he’s American and Chris Pratt giving us a performance that’s different from Emmett in The Lego Movie. The animation was also well-done, but because most of what we see is supposed to be dingy suburbs, at times, it’s not very appealing to look at.

I know it looks realistic, but maybe I’m too spoiled.

So while I personally liked the film fine, I don’t think you’re missing anything if you decide to skip it.

9 thoughts on “My Thoughts: ONWARD (2020)”

  1. Thanks for the review! I wonder what I’ll think of the film IF I’m going to watch it (I’m in no hurry)

  2. Agreed. Enjoyable, but not fantastic. Also, I feel like Laurel should have been acknowledged more for all she did as a single mom. She was made to be a side character with very little in the way of appreciation.

    1. I actually feel at times there were a lot of focus on Laurel and her side exploits with the Manticore than there should have been.

      But yeah, they probably could have highlighter her single mom-ness a bit more. Unless maybe that wasn’t what they were going for?

  3. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I agree that there’s not much to the plot – it’s a typical quest-driven fantasy movie with a somewhat predictable outcome – but to me this movie was really about the characters and the emotions so I was okay with that.

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