Chris Pratt and Tom Holland voice elves who are on a quest to spend a day with their deceased father.
Pixar has created a number of fantastic movies since “Toy Story,” but not every one of them has been a hit. Though heartwarming, “Onward” missed the mark of what makes a phenomenal Pixar film.
Directed and co-written by Dan Scanlon, “Onward” is a film about a boy named Ian Lightfoot — voiced by Tom Holland — who is an elf with typical teenage problems. He lives with his mother Laurel and his brother Barley in a land where magic exists, but where modern technology has put it out of use.
As much as the movie’s touching moments pull on viewers’ heartstrings, the plot of “Onward” has the feel of a formula that has been on repeat in the Pixar industry for a while. This formula may have worked for Pixar films like “Finding Nemo” or “The Incredibles” that generations of people grew up on, but in “Onward,” the characters and plot fell a little flat.
The writers used the age-old narrative of a quest to build the story. Ian has turned 16 and has been given a staff from his deceased father, which allows him to visit his sons for 24 hours. Unsurprisingly, the spell doesn’t go right.
The dynamic of the quest can be summed up in a single sentence: One boy is afraid of everything, and the other isn’t. This creates conflict and brotherly arguments.
Despite its shortcomings, “Onward” still has a nostalgic feel that seems purposeful. By bringing back their dead father from the grave for 24 hours, the brothers’ elongate their own process of denial. While this is a flawed portrayal of loss, it still brings tears to your eyes by showing how those you love can help you come to terms with grief.
The theme of brotherly love is also prominent throughout the movie, as the bond is portrayed as a relationship that allows people to grow and represents the brothers’ coming of age. In the case of Barley and Ian, we see them begin to understand how much they help each other throughout the movie.
Heart-wrenching moments aside, the film is infused with humor. Barley is the main theme of these jokes as he has Chris Pratt’s goofy voice and a Jack Black sense of comedy that will leave audience members laughing.
George Muller, a sophomore acting for the stage and screen major shared his thoughts on the movie.
“I think that it’s clever and charming, but not one of Pixar’s best in terms of blending the word building with their character and plot development,” Muller said.
As a fantasy movie, it struggles with these issues since It’s hard to focus when unicorns eat trash, sprites are part of biker gangs and cops are centaurs or Cyclops.
“I did feel like the urgency of the brothers wanting to reunite with their dad could have been a bit more tangible. Throughout the film, their squabbles don’t feel legitimate or necessary,” Muller said.
The movie is well cast with Pratt playing a great funny older brother and Holland’s ability to play earnest characters. However, the character development is lacking as the mother and stepdad figure do not get an arching narrative.
The movie is reminiscent of Harry Potter, D&D and Indiana Jones all combined together. It’s a confused mixture and feels like a wacky video game. However, this movie is built with a loving tenderness and watching it will not disappoint.