Movie Review: Disney and Pixar’s “Onward”

Hi everyone!

We posted an Onward press conference article today and I’ve seen the movie and wanted to post a review. Our reporter in Hollywood loved the film, I am a bit more mixed on my feelings about it. I lost my dad and stepdad in 2018 so I thought that the film might feel deeper because of that, but really the press conference with Dan Scanlon talking about losing his dad young touched me more. However, I did enjoy the movie and I will discuss that below.

Disney says about Onward, Set in a suburban fantasy world, Disney and Pixar’s “Onward” introduces two teenage elf brothers who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there.

Onward is primarily the story of two elf brothers who lost their dad Wilden when they were too young to remember him. Ian (Tom Holland) has a longing to know more about his father, and even runs into someone his dad knew years earlier who talks glowingly about him. Finding out that his dad was “bold”, Ian sets out to be more like him, with not much success at the beginning of the film. But things change when he and his somewhat troublesome brother Barley (Chris Pratt) receive a staff from their mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) that was meant to be given to them after each was 16 years old. Apparently Wilden was a wizard, and he wanted to be conjured back up for a day to see how his sons were doing. And Wilden does appear – or at least half of him does. He meets his sons with a body that only exists from the waist down. That part is a little odd, with his waist being his head for part of the film.

I don’t know anything about Dungeons and Dragons so the fantasy aspect is a little lost on me – but it is sort of an adventure film meets Weekend at Bernie’s.

My favorite aspect of Onward were the three main characters – Ian, Barley and Laurel – and their relationship. Laurel is just an average mom doing her best with the two teenagers – and she is a delight. Ian and Barley are brothers who annoy each other, especially Barley annoying Ian. They are very different but still have love and respect for each other. Laurel also has a boyfriend named Colt who is half horse and half man, which leads to some funny scenes.

What didn’t ring true for me was the ending. I felt it was somewhat unsatisfying, and saying anymore will spoil it. And also, why is nobody recording him on their phone or taking photos? Wilden is with them and communicating on some level – primarily with his feet. This is an opportunity to make some permanent images as well.

I found the story compelling enough to sit through once and I could watch again. But compared to a film like Disney-Pixar’s Coco, which moved me deeply, Onward didn’t do that. Comparing the two movies that deal with death, Coco is much more profound and cathartic for me on each viewing. Onward feels more superficial but still is worth a watch.

Mousesteps Onward grade: B