Disney / Pixar Onward - Movie Review

Chris Pratt and Tom Holland

If you're like me, as soon as you see Pixar's studio attached to an animated film, you know to pack the tissues.  While the stories told in these movies are often heartwarming and filled with laughs, they also pack an emotional punch that leaves softies like me ugly crying in theaters.  Would Onward be any different?  The newest film from Disney and Pixar actually had me questioning it during the trailers, but would Onward defy my initial trailer reactions and live up to the hype?  Let's find out.  Before taking a look at my thoughts on the film, let's take one more look at the trailer and information from the studios.

About Disney / Pixar's Onward

From Walt Disney Studios: Set in a suburban fantasy world, Disney and Pixar’s “Onward” introduces two teenage elf brothers (voices of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there. A new trailer and poster are now available, and new character posters were recently revealed, introducing cast members Mel Rodriguez, who voices Officer Colt Bronco; Lena Waithe, who lends her voice to Officer Specter; and Ali Wong, the voice of Officer Gore. Directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae, “Onward” opens in U.S. theaters on March 6, 2020. Facebook: http://facebook.com/pixaronward/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/pixaronward Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pixaronward/ Hashtag: #PixarOnward

Disney / Pixar's Onward Movie Review

So was Onward the heartwarming, tear jerker we have come to expect from Pixar?  The short answer is. . .yes.  We meet Ian Lightfoot on his 16th birthday.  Like most teenagers, he's struggling to figure out who he is and his place in the world, but this is especially hard for him as he never met his dad.  Ian's dad passed away while his mom was pregnant with him and the only things that Ian has left of him is pictures, a cassette tape recording, and his college sweatshirt.  Or so he thought.  The evening of his birthday, his mom presents both Ian and his brother, Barley, with a gift from their father that he instructed their mother to give them when they were both over 16.  The boys unwrap and old wizard staff and a spell that will bring their father back for one day.  As Ian later says in the movie, "with a little bit of magic in your life, you can do just about anything."

When the spell only partially works (that's why dad is only pants in all the artwork), the brothers embark on a quest to find the Phoenix Gem and bring their dad back using magic that the world had forgotten.  Along the way, the brothers have an adventure that challenges them as individuals as well as their relationship with each other.  Ian realizes along the way that while he may never have had his father growing up, his big brother had been there for him every step of the way.  The final scenes will leave you feeling all the feels as you see how much each member of the Lightfoot family is willing to sacrifice out of love for each other.

From a character development standpoint, each of the main characters demonstrate a lot of dimension.  We see them each grow from where they were at the beginning of the film.  Ian presents as a nervous teenager lacking confidence and evolves into a mighty warrior.  In fact, his mom goes through a similar transformation.  You see her at the beginning of the movie as your typical suburban mom and then we see her throughout the movie show the warrior that is within all of us moms when our kids need our help and support.  Barley also wrestles with a part of himself that he's kept hidden.  During the quest, he shares with Ian that he was too scared as a little boy to go in and say goodbye when his father was sick and dying.  Once he realized what that meant, he decided he was never going to be scared again.

Is Onward Kid Friendly?

I saw the film with my boys who are 4 and 8.  There are plenty of humorous scenes throughout the film that left my 4 year old laughing and entertained even though many of the bigger messages went over his head.  My 8 year old is far more attentive to the deeper meaning behind movies now and he was crying a little bit at the end.  My boys really haven't experienced the death of a loved one that they've been old enough to comprehend - this movie may hit close to home for those that have.  In some ways, I feel that it's a great way to show how even though someone is gone, their impact can still be felt on your family.  But, I also feel that young children who may have recently lost a parent may struggle with watching Ian and Barley working to bring their dad back and wondering if they can too.  I do love the message of family love and support though throughout the film.  Especially as a boy mom, I think this captures that big brother /  little brother bond beautifully.

Final Thoughts on Onward

Overall, I enjoyed the film and I'm sure I'll watch it again in the future.  I was very worried in the original trailers about the presentation of the trash-eating unicorns and the manticore that this movie was going to be too mystical and out there for me.  I was happy though that, while these characters appeared in the film, it wasn't centered on the craziness of a mythical universe.  Yes, magic was central to the storyline, but the bigger themes of family and personal growth were the focus of the film.  Simply consider any sensitivities your family may have to death do decide if this movie is right for you, then let your quest begin!



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