Review – Onward (2020)

Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland, left) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt, right) are brothers destined for adventure in Disney/Pixar’s Onward (2020)

Release Date: March 6, 2020

Director: Dan Scanlon

Cast: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Rating: 3.5/4 Stars


[The following review is spoiler-free]

With its 22nd feature film to date, Pixar has accomplished what very few studios have been able to do in 25 years. Having recently been released for subscribers to stream on Disney+, the folks at Disney have bestowed upon viewers a gem of a film sure to invigorate joy and adventure in all those who take the time to venture onward.

Barley (Pratt) and Ian (Holland) seek to find the location of the Phoenix Gem with the help and guidance of The Manticore (Octavia Spencer) in Onward (2020)

The film opens up with a narrator telling us of a tale long ago in a land unlike ours when magic was alive and well. With the rise and advent of technology and innovation, magic soon became a relic of the past as convenience and the pursuit of immediate gratification became of utmost importance. Fast forward to the present day, we meet two brothers on different sides of the same coin: Ian (shy and unconfident) seeking to mark his place among peers, and Barley (bold albeit reckless) seeking to remind others of the past. Upon Ian’s sixteenth birthday, both brothers are gifted a staff and spell from their deceased father promising to resurrect him from the dead for one full day cycle. As the spell is disrupted from casting its full effect, both brothers embark on a comical and perilous journey to attain a gem that will aid them in completing the spell and bringing their father back to life before time runs out. As they trek the quest, their relationship as brothers faces challenges spurred on in true Pixar-fashion that not only stands the test of time, but beckons us to look upon those who have made an impact in our own lives.

Fairies, such as those pictured above, litter and take to the streets in Onward (2020)

With a whimsical story balancing both attention to detail and subtext, Onward not only entertains viewers but brings forth to the surface timeless themes related to family and friendship. Much of the narrative is dedicated to the interplay between brothers as they laugh and fight their way through the odds in both personal and harrowing ways. Chris Pratt and Tom Holland make wonderful pairings as brothers, and the adventure they set upon is as charming and thrilling as you’d hope to see. Colorful characters fashioned after folklore and myth liven the fantasy element in both dramatic and comical effect reflecting upon ways and people we’ve come across this side of reality.

Yet again, the animators responsible for bringing the world to life do an excellent job as settings become further photorealistic lending believability to a world purely generated out of the most imaginative of minds. Character animations are top notch, and the delivery of human performances stirs up every bit of emotion as the action and drama unfolds. Aside from a few small and underdeveloped plot threads, the story remains ever so focused (and rightly so) on the adventure and familial ties at the center of this spectacular film.

Brothers in progress, Barley and Ian, dance around their semi-resurrected, half-bodied father in Onward (2020)

In the end, Onward is a winner of a film and a wonderful detour into fantasy and heart-warming human territory. Delightful and immensely entertaining, it catapults itself into the higher echelon of animated adventures. While not amongst my all-time favorites in Pixar’s ever-expanding catalog of films, Onward definitely remains to be seen again and again whether alone or shared amongst family and friends. There’s a little bit of everything for viewers to latch onto, and don’t be surprised if Onward tugs at your heart-strings during its pleasant and evenly-paced runtime. I shed a tear or two, and for those of you who may see someone they can relate to or project onto, I suggest the same can be predicted for you as well. Be sure to grab your tissues with your snacks, and buckle up and sit back as you enjoy the ride.

Onward is rated PG for action/peril and some mild thematics elements, and is available to stream through most digital platforms for rent or purchase as well as being included in the film library for Disney+ subscribers.