In a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there.
I always struggle to find reasons to dislike a Pixar film. One of the most annoying preconceived notions about genres is the one about animated movies. "They're for children, how can you enjoy stuff like that, you're so childish", people say. Little do they know that animated flicks have as much or more emotionally compelling narratives and characters than live-action films. The score is usually more important in the former genre, and the visuals always look stunning. The partnership Disney-Pixar is probably the best thing that could have happened to Hollywood.
Dan Scanlon delivered a surprisingly good sequel to Monsters Inc. back in 2013 with Monsters University. Making an efficient sequel twelve years after its original is a challenging task, and Scanlon succeed, so I had good expectations going in. Onward might not be one of Pixar's best movies, and I doubt that a lot of people will place it as one of their favorites when comparing with the studio's films of the same type. However, it still carries the trademark emotional narrative with relatable characters that Pixar always delivers.
I grew up with a father, mother, and two older brothers. Just with this information, I know that I'm luckier than a whole bunch of people all around the world. Onward focuses on the relationship between two siblings (Chris Pratt and Tom Holland), and I love their adventure together. It made me recall my childhood and the awesome moments I shared with my brothers. If you're a fan of Dungeons & Dragons or other quest-based games, the main plot's structure will definitely please you as it did me, but it's connected to my biggest gripe...
The concept is pretty neat, but its execution lacks a little bit of more... magic, as ironic as it might be. For example, Frozen II isn't about a "world full of magic", but Elsa (Idina Menzel) alone has more magical scenes than Onward in its entirety. In the former, the actual magic feels the screen with stunning animation and chill-inducing music. Onward feels like a diminished version of its true potential. While it's true that the world where the main characters live in has lost its overwhelming magic from the past, their adventure is filled with obstacles which they deal with... you guessed it, magic.
I don't want to sound like that guy who only wants "action for the sake of action". I hate when people dislike a movie simply because they didn't see enough stuff exploding or something. It's a bit about expectations and about what I know Pixar can do. Obviously, I'm expecting more from them now more than ever. It's not that the story isn't interesting or captivating because there's definitely an entertaining vibe throughout the whole runtime. It's well-paced, there's always something going on, and the humor is pitch-perfect. It's GOOD. Simple as that.
The voice acting is fantastic. Tom Holland and especially Chris Pratt really incorporate their characters' spirit, and it's almost palpable that the actors had tons of fun behind-the-scenes. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer are also quite good, but their characters' respective arcs aren't near as compelling as the primary narrative. Every moment I spent with them is every moment I wanted to go back to the brothers. However, the fun and entertainment never go away. The story never fails to be exciting, it just goes increases and decreases its level ever so slightly.
I saved the best for last. Even though the second act feels a tad repetitive, the ending is incredibly satisfying. Predictable? Yes. Will it be underwhelming/disappointing for some people? Surely. But it delivers the most beautiful of messages in the most emotional way possible, as Pixar always manages to do. A lot of nice, small morals are learned throughout the story, but the final one is absolutely perfect, and it left some tears in my eyes. The ending is heartfelt and genuine for everyone, but it will have a tremendous impact on families that lost a member way too soon.
All in all, the Disney-Pixar's partnership continues to provide the world with the best animated films of each year. Onward is the most recent success, even though it lacks a bit of magic and creativity when compared to the studio's movies of the same genre. Boasting a talented voice cast, the two brothers go on a fun, quest-based adventure that concludes with a wonderful, heartfelt message to every family out there. Some people might find the ending too predictable and underwhelming, but the climax is emotionally powerful, and it will unquestionably cause an impact on everyone (tissues, anyone?). Its second act feels a bit repetitive, but the entertainment never fades away. Hilarious and clever humor, compelling main characters, not-that-interesting secondary characters, and gorgeous animation as always. The end credits song is pretty cool too. Can't wait for Soul...
Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar by Dan Scanlon, Keith Bunin, Jason Headley.
Stars: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer.
Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Keywords: elves magic fantasy world teenage protagonist brother brother relationship
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