Onward Review – Entertaining, Engaging, Captivating

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Onward, from Pixar Animation, presents the story of two brothers as they race against time, and the police, to find the key that unlocks the desire of their heart, fighting against magical obstacles, and their own disbelief.

Directed by Dan Scanlon, Onward stars the voice talents of Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julie Louise-Dreyfuss, Octavia Spencer, John Ratzenberger, Tracey Ullman, Mel Rodriguez, Lena Waithe and Ali Wong.

Onward centers on two brothers, Ian, voiced by Tom Holland, and Barley Lightfoot, voiced by Chris Pratt, who couldn’t be more opposite. Barley, loud, confident, a gamer, and Ian, at sixteen, shy, introverted and is awkward and unsure of where he fits in to this family.

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Today, as we find out, it is Ian’s sixteenth birthday and his mom, Laurel Lightfoot, voiced by Julie Louis-Dreyfuss, is planning a birthday party. Still hoping to shrink into the wall, or non-existence, Ian makes the attempt to ask a group of kids and within moments of conquering becomes overwhelmed and cancels the entire thing.

Barley, who has adopted a devotion to the historical preservation of the town’s ancient ancestry. As we find out it is the land of great conquests and battles, of Manticores, ancient symbols, and mystical pathways He is sure magic still does exist. Everyone else believes he is simply a slacker.

As the two make it back home, Laurel explains that their dad, who died when Ian was a baby and when Barley was a toddler, was a big believer in magic and left them both something with the explicit instructions it was not to be given to them until both were at least 16 years old.

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Unfolding it, Barley understood the significance immediately, it was a magic spell that would bring their Dad back for one day. Ian, not a real believer in magic, was content to let his brother handle the heavy lifting. If wizardry was involved in this project, Barley was the one that could make it happen. Unfortunately, this was just another disappointment.

Ian picked up the wizard’s staff, repeated the spell, and suddenly the power and force of the magic crackled like lightening, awakening the ancient power driving him backward with a whirlwind strength as he attempted to hold the stick focused as the spell, created, crafted, built, fashioned and formed in front of his eyes with a force so strong it finally knocked him down.

Ian looked at the sudden disarray of the room saddened, just one more disappointment, when under the pile of clothes in the closet, a movement, a sound, two skinny legs with purple socks stick out. In shock, they realize as Ian was unable to stand steady as the powerful spell was directed, they were only able to have half their day.

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This sets off a race against time to find the ancient stone which, like a power pack, will generate the power to replicate the spell so they can have a one day with their whole dad.

Throughout the remainder of the film the boy’s face ancients’ quests, with each becoming a mental challenge, a faith challenge and allowing oneself to believe, not only in the impossible but obviously in the unbelievable. As the two set out on the same goal, their comes a time when they realize, they only way to achieve the goal is to work together.

I really enjoyed Onward until the ending which I discuss below. The premise, story, direction, and voice talent are solid and definitely entertaining.

The ending which I won’t give away, was a letdown. While it was climatic, the conclusion of this entire film, it become more of how the creators chose to end the film. Personally, the story’s ending appeared unimaginative, as if the ending should be acceptable. And again, so not to give away the ending, the entire film is driven by one desire, one longing, and to see it end so heartlessly was surprising.

I guess for those who created the story, denial or denying a lifelong dream is the pathway to happiness and contentment. I disagree strongly with this message.

Onward, which until this contrived ending is built on conquering the hidden challenges that keep one from succeeding. Unfortunately, they reinforce conquering with denial of the heart’s desire. Yes, you surmounted all the challenges, learned to trust others and yourself, conquered all your inner demons, believed and saw your only desire materialize and then was forced to watch, from a walled in confinement, as it was given to someone else. Ouch.

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The film has astonishing, eye-popping neon colors as it humanizes the new world and appears to add a layer of actual human actions and emotions for the characters. The vividness and magical wizardry present true Pixar genius. Characterization is sharp, unique, with definitively an imaginative story.

Engaging and captivating Onward opens February 29, 2020 in select cities and in theaters everywhere March 3, 2020.

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