Pixar is still doing what they do best; crafting emotional, heartwarming stories with a fun sense of adventure that cater to audiences of all ages. Right off the bat, Onward feels different from a typical Pixar film, right down to the animation, but once the story gets under way it’s clear that it adheres to the Pixar formula.
Onward follows two brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt), who set off on a mystical quest to bring their father back to life using the long forgotten power of magic. From the moment this adventure kicks off, it’s a fun and fast-paced ride the whole way through. The set-up in the first act is incredible, everything that is introduced comes in to play at some point later in the film whether it be a major plot point or something thematic. The writers waste no time setting up the laws of the world, the main relationships at play and what the adventure is going to entail, locking you in from the get-go.
As the story progresses, the sense of adventure is never lost. There are regular left turns taken that sends the story in some quite interesting directions, keeping things fresh and giving the brothers a number of new experiences to bond over. The film does have a number of impactful emotionally heavy moments, but it’s very well balanced out with the fact that there are a tonne of heartwarming and uplifting moments. It does bring the tears, but it also brings some delightful smiles with it through a number of charming scenes that stick with you once the credits end.
I’d say there could have been a tad more humour thrown in at various moments, as there’s not a lot to laugh at, but that levity is driven through the more heartwarming scenes I mentioned earlier. Aside from the main plot, there is a minor adventure occurring alongside what the brothers are doing that I thought was going to get old fast. However, it winds up being quite entertaining and connecting well with the main arc, both in terms of the plot and the emotional connection between characters. As a whole, the story is very well crafted throughout.
Tom Holland and Chris Pratt are great as the two lead brothers. The two of them have this electric chemistry that really makes the brother dynamic feel real. The connection they have in real life comes out through the film and adds so much more to the story and the emotional impact of almost every moment. Their back and forth communication is endlessly fun, especially since the characters they’re portraying are so different. Outside of their performances, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer are both great in their respective roles, but don’t really stand out that much.
When it comes to the animation, there’s no doubting that it’s a slightly different style compared to what we usually see from Pixar… but that doesn’t change the fact that it is as stunning as ever. Building a world in which magic exists, or used to exist, needs a special attention to detail that Pixar have delivered on incredibly well.
In the end, Onward may not be Pixar’s best, but it’s yet another strong entry from the animation studio packed with emotional storytelling, fast-paced thrills and stellar animation. The adventure is a fun ride from beginning to end, one that captures your attention and doesn’t let go. There’s something in here for everyone to enjoy, with a number of heartwarming and tear-jerking moments to give you a rollercoaster of emotions.