Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Onward, But Not Necessarily Upward

Written and directed by Dan Scanlon (Monsters University), the latest entry to the Pixar universe is one of the weakest in the company's catalog. Set around broader and more generic characters than we've come to expect from Pixar, Onward is a story-driven tale that doesn't hit the emotional beats nearly as well as many of the studio's previous films. Don't get me wrong, it's still a passable animated feature, it's just not... magical.

Onward has the ingredients which should hit home for me personally, yet it does not. It focuses on an introverted character finding his path and involves Dungeons & Dragons role playing adventure. Maybe such themes have just been mined too long by film and TV in recent years to leave much new ground to cover.

The wacky road trip movie stars Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as a pair of brothers living in a fantasy world that has lost most of its magic. Given the opportunity to spend one day with the father they lost as children, the pair race to complete a spell that has only resurrected the lower-half of their dad.

Onward is one of those films where the journey, rather than the destination, becomes the reward. The trouble with Onward is that the journey is fine, but only fine. And certainly not remarkable. There are some fun moments between the brothers, and some lighthearted scenes as they race to find a mystical gem that can alone offer them time with their dearly-departed father. There's even a nice lesson about life for the younger members of the audience. So why does it feel more like a Blue Sky production than a Disney/Pixar film? Is it the setting? The tone? Or the focus more on the quest than its consequences to the characters? It's a bit of all of the above, and, for whatever reason, Onward just feels ironically ordinary while lacking the magic Pixar has seemingly be able to effortless add to its tales over the years. Is it worth seeing? Sure, if you have nothing better to do, but keep your expectations in check with this one.

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