In Theatres: 
Mar 06, 2020
Running Time: 
103 minutes

To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about Pixar’s Onward when it was first announced and the initial trailers didn’t do much to change that fact. To me, it looked like any generic animated film, but this is Pixar we’re talking about, and to be fair the trailers aren’t anywhere close to doing the film’s story justice. What starts out as a goofy road trip between two brothers quickly develops into a heartfelt journey that is powered by director Dan Scanlon’s own personal experience. Onward reaches deep into your soul and finds the magic that’s been buried there all this time, just waiting to be released.


The world was once filled with magic but as time moved on and society developed easier ways of doing things, that magic soon started to fade away. On his 16th birthday, shy and introverted Ian (Tom Holland) receives a gift from his late father who passed away when he was just a baby. Turns out his dad knew a thing or two about magic and left Ian and his older brother Barley (Chris Pratt) a staff and a spell using a phoenix gem that would bring him back for one day so he could see who his kids grew up to be. Unfortunately Ian struggles with casting the spell correctly and only manages to bring back his dad’s bottom half back to life. With the help of Barley, the two set out to find a new phoenix gem so they can resurrect the rest of dad and spend what little time they have left with him before the sun sets and he disappears for good.


There’s the age old mantra that life isn’t about the destination but the journey, and I feel like that applies to Onward as well. It’s a story about two brothers who are opposite in most every way. Barley is brash and confident, sometimes to a fault, while Ian is quiet and reserved. Ian believes that if he could spend some time with dad and learn what he taught Barley that he’d be able to live up to his potential. That’s what drives him to make the dangerous journey to retrieve a new phoenix stone. Ultimately it’s this quest that brings the two brothers closer together.


Onward fully embeds itself within the fantasy genre, and it’s an absolute blast. Think along the lines of Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and The Lord of the Rings. The film takes everything magical and then brings it to the modern age like rabid unicorns behaving like raccoons or ferocious manticores running restaurants that pay tribute to the olden days that may have been more dangerous but they were also more fun. All of the nerdy references are wonderful and bring out the charm in the film.


But where Onward really excels is with its emotionally gripping story about building relationships, whether that’s between a father and son or between two brothers. Even though the dad is just a pair of pants and feet, Pixar brings so much life and character to him. They set this up by having him tapping his feet. First it’s just so he can get his footing in the world around him, after all he has no head to see where he’s going, but pretty soon you can feel the love he exudes with a simple foot-to-foot tap between him and Ian or Barley. There are many of these little intimate moments between characters that immediately pull at your heartstrings. Get the tissue ready because you’re gonna need them.


Onward is a magical addition to the Pixar library that will no doubt bring a tear to your eye. It may not be on the same level as say Toy Story, Up, or Inside Out, but it’s absolutely wonderful to see another original idea brought to life by the studio. Like any good moment, you’ll want to savor every last second of it.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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