2020 Film Review: Onward
Updated: Jul 2
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Before the virus, I had a list of films I was still to see at the cinema, as I had a very slow and sluggish start to going to the movies in 2020. With this, my list was building up continuously and each new release was being pushed back a little bit due to time constraints. That and the fact that my girlfriend insisted on seeing the modern classic that is 'Fantasy Island' before anything else.
As time and delays went by, the virus reached the U.K. sending the quartet of nations into a lockdown and the closure of leisurely places, cinemas included. With this, the chance to watch certain films on the big screen disappeared. For the most part, this was no biggie, I wasn't exactly dying to catch up on 'Bloodshot' and 'The Hunt'. However, there was one I was planning on seeing, coincidentally on the day the cinema was properly shut.
With an illustrious library featuring pinnacles of Animation like Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc and the Toy Story series, Pixar have built up an incredible reputation with many huge successes over the years. Perhaps unfairly due to this, each and every film has a standard to meet which may overshadow how the film is rated on its own merits. This is most definitely the case surrounding 'Onward', but not initially just due to its companions at the global super-studio, but due to how it feels like a reskin of previous Pixar movies, and a much weaker version at that.
Throughout the runtime, 'Onward's narrative seemed to be very reminiscent of a few of their previous films, most recognisably for me 'Inside Out'. Following the journey of a duo who don't share the same viewpoint with true feelings being spilt, sacrifices and a moment of realisation of what the other does, there's a lot of striking similarities between the two. The problem that stems from this is that 'Inside Out' is miles ahead in every single aspect. 'Onward' feels like a watered-down version, mildly enjoyable and watchable but ultimately, something you've seen - fairly recently - done so much better. In terms of character, creativity and fun, 'Onward' pales in comparison and with this, you pine to be watching the original that this is attempting to recreate the formula from.
Focussing on character just now, we follow Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Prat) on a brotherly road trip with several obstacles in the way. Ian is very shy and reserved, something that many - myself included - will relate to for sure. Unfortunately, though, Ian is rather dull and doesn't seem to have a real personality elsewhere beyond his shyness. Even when he is alone, there is nothing else to really cling on to beyond his social awkwardness. As far as Pixar lead characters go, Ian ranks lowly as whininess and uncertainty don't make a compelling character, with the hijinks that come from his awkwardness is all something you've seen before.
As for Chris Pratt's Barley, he is there mainly to act as a mouthpiece for the viewer, explaining all along the way. There's a lot of medieval malarkey in which Barley feeds exposition and the upcoming events to the audience which at times is very overbearing. You feel like you're being hit over the head with it and a lot of instances where you don't need the running commentary from the character. Barley is the more exuberant one but he's not overly witty, jokey or as quick to make him an ideal counterpart to the more serious Ian. As a duo, they squeeze by but are let down by poor characteristics and writing that stops them excelling and because of this, the film falters massively. As for side characters, there really is nothing to get excited about. When the best supporting character comes in the form of a silent bottom half of a body, you know the crop isn't up to much.
The main theme of the film follows family and in particular brotherhood amidst the absence of a father. The film does look to explore how the duo step up and fill the void for one another, but it is fairly thin, with an extended flashback needed to push this message over the line. The bond doesn't seem overly strong throughout the film and with this, the film fails to really nail its emotional beats when it comes to dealing with death and supporting one another through such tragedy.
'Onward' does succeed well as a family film, being perfectly watchable and entertaining. The adventure does have fun moments and there are jokes that will surely amuse as usual, whilst being backed up by some tremendous animation. In the grand scheme of things, 'Onward' does succeed as a pleasurable watch. But for those looking for a bit more, it will disappoint and not stick with you nearly as much as its predecessors. As I previously mentioned, it may be unfair to compare it to such greats, but in its own right, 'Onward' never really surpasses being more than just okay.
Final Rating: 2.5/5
In all honesty, 'Onward' was slightly disappointing which I'm sad to see due to how long I've waited to finally see this film. But in saying that, there definitely is some enjoyment that families n particular will get out of it and will entertain during the lockdown. As usual, thank you for giving my post a read and hope you enjoyed reading it. Make sure to come back for more posts soon and continue to stay safe. You can also find me on Letterboxd if you want to see more reviews from the past at https://letterboxd.com/AngusMcGregor11/. Once again, thanks for reading and I'll see you in the next one!