When considering standout animation, one’s mind doesn’t often stray too far away from Pixar. With such critically acclaimed titles like Toy Story, Cars, Up and more under their belt, it almost felt like a given that the animation studios’ latest film, Onward, would be yet another, class above animated feature film. So why then did I not feel the same gut wrenching emotions I felt with Toy Story or even Monsters’ Inc?
Onward is set in a modern day society, which was once filled with magic and mythical creatures. The film follows the Lightfoot brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) as they journey in search of an artefact that will bring their deceased father back for one night. Of course, like any tale of adventure, things go awry and jeopardises Ian’s chance to meet his father for the first time.
Like most stories of this nature, the narrative and plot is a predictable one. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, especially in the case of a family film aimed at children. The predictability is effective in reinforcing the notion of happy endings to young audiences. Adults on the other hand, might feel a little differently.
While the narrative and key plot of the film held some charm, the rest of the film felt forced, especially the interactions between Ian and Barley. Both brothers’ character development felt underwhelming and compared to the likes of other Pixar characters, felt almost unnerving. It became glaringly obvious who voiced both characters as the actors’ personalities somehow managed to seep through. Barley, to me, became almost as annoying as Star Lord (Pratt’s other Disney related character in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy). Once again, I fear that my feelings against the characters in Onward stems more from a yearning for more substance, especially considering previous Pixar titles provided characters with a lot more ‘oomph’.
The animation too, felt subpar. After such stunning animated experiences with Coco, Up and Wall-E, Onward felt less like a Pixar film and more like a general animated feature from your average studio. Sure, the world in which the film is set looked enchanting, but with a plethora of magical worlds in animated films these days, it just didn’t strike me as anything new.
Now, it might sound like I didn’t enjoy Onward at all, which for the most part is an accurate assumption. However, there was one aspect of the film that managed to catch my attention and this was, humour. There were some light hearted and quite childish jokes and gags in the film that I actually found amusing. Whether or not this was genuine enjoyment or simply relief from the predictability of the narrative, I’m not sure. I am certain others will find the humour entertaining though. I must warn you, there are some jokes that do get overused and become tired rather quickly. Consider yourselves warned.
After the magnificence of Toy Story 4 and the lovable short, Bao, I was really looking forward to enjoying Onward. Alas, Pixar missed the mark on this title, in my personal opinion. Kids will definitely find themselves entertained and might even sit through the entire film without getting distracted but adults might just find themselves wanting an excuse to be distracted. In my view, the reason for this is simply that the ‘heart’ and emotional aspects of the film felt scripted and too forced, without any of the key ingredients that make a Pixar film a standout feature.
With the coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic plaguing our world at the moment, Onward is no longer playing in cinemas, given that most have temporarily shut their doors. Thankfully, if you’re wanting to watch the film, Disney have confirmed a digital release of the film soon, so stay tuned.