Review: Pixar’s Onward (NO SPOILERS HERE!)

Pixar’s 22nd film!

Finally, an original IP that isn’t a sequel or remake!

Let’s see how magical this film is…

PLOT –

Elf brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) go on a journey to magically revive their deceased father for one last day together.

Not knowing Pixar, this is your standard road trip movie.

Knowing Pixar, I hope you brought tissues…

First seeing the trailers for this film, I got a lot of “Shrek” vibes from this, and while watching it, I still do. Initially, this film does not really feel like a Pixar film.

My main issue with this is the Zootopia-like setting. Mashing animals and modern society worked well because there were a lot of easy-to-work-with animal stereotypes that would cross cultural and language boundaries, but with this film, several characters need to be explained and there is a lot of jargon to keep track of. The characters seem anachronistic and out-of-place to the point where I almost would have liked the main characters and setting to be humans that find magic. Save for a few jokes and plot devices, all of the characters could have been human.

The pacing of the film is also breakneck. Once the quest starts, scenes feel like they are rushing to get to the next, and it only slows down 2/3 of the way into the film. The last third of the film is surprisingly the best, for me. This is where it gets really good. The humor is top notch, the action, thrills, and mystery are abundant, and…

The tears do flow.

It hit me like a punch. Everything in the film tied itself together in a neat bow at the end, and I was awed that mostly every detail from the first two thirds came back magnificently in the last. This film is created in honor of the director’s father and his brother, and boy… Does it show.

My PLOT RATING is 3/5. The setting and character design feels unlike the studio making the film, the story is very by-the-book, but the last third hits HARD. Good job, Pixar. Good job.

CHARACTERS –

Tom Holland is back as Ian, yet another American-accented awkward teenager, and he still does an excellent job at it. Ian himself is a great character that learns not only magic, but to stand up for himself and be assertive.

Chris Pratt plays Barley, a rough-and-tumble rock-and-roll / D&D fanboy… With hidden depths. He basically plays Andy from Parks and Rec, but he also does a great job with it as well. Honestly, I initially thought he was going to be played by Jack Black, but Chris Pratt adds some lighter nuance to the role.

The voiceless legs of their father is a pretty funny “character” that is a great device for sight gags. He trips and stumbles his way through the film, and provides many laughs, and sometimes, heart.

Their mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is similar to her oldest son, unafraid of the world and ready to help her sons by whatever means necessary. She teams up with the Manticore, Corey (Octavia Spencer). They both have a running B-Plot yet it doesn’t contribute that much to the overall story.

The rest of the side characters are mostly comprised of those that can fit a joke stereotype (unicorns are raccoons, the centaur cop counts to three with his hooves, goblins are sleazy, horrible people) and that’s just okay. However, in what would usually be a throwaway line, there is a LGBT-represented character in this film, a first for the Disney Animated Canon, and Pixar as well.

My CHARACTERS RATING is 4/5. Great sibling dynamic, the father is like a silent movie, and the mom is awesome (I watched this on International Women’s Day, by the way), and while the side characters are vehicles for jokes, they still help tie the plot together.

DIALOGUE –

The script is pretty tight, but I noticed a lot of points where silence would be a better alternative to dialogue. There are a lot of lines in this film used to fill space and time, and I believe in this case, actions speak louder than words, especially during the heart-breaking moments. Also, there is a lot of exposition in this film, and it’s justly said with vigor by Chris Pratt (and I’m glad it’s him), though aside from that, let the visuals do the talking.

My DIALOGUE RATING is 2/5. Silence is golden, except when exposition is concerned.

EFFECTS –

Beautiful vistas, caverns, and water abound, and the smoke effects at the end are top notch! Similar to what we’ve seen before, but always improving.

My EFFECTS RATING is 4/5.

MUSIC –

Standard adventuring music and pop / rock songs abound, but when those strings hit during the sad parts, it’s gold.

My MUSIC RATING is 3/5.

OVERALL –

This isn’t my favorite out of the 22 Pixar films (geez, I’m old!) thus far, but it’s still pretty good. I wouldn’t mind a sequel, but they need to either stick with the modern or the fantasy elements more because the strange meld they have now doesn’t really work. The side characters are good but need fleshing out, the dialogue needs some trimming, but the effects, music, and main characters save the film for me.

My OVERALL RATING for Pixar’s Onward is 80%.

See you tomorrow for another review!

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