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Review: 'Onward' (2020) Dir. Dan Scanlon

Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Mel Rodriguez, Kyle Bornheimer and Tracey Ullman


Pixar return for a fantastical fairy-tale adventure full on what it means to be family...

Brothers Ian (Holland) and Barley (Pratt) Lightfoot live with their mother Laurel (Louis-Dreyfus) in a world once full of magic and wonder, now populated with modern technology.

On Ian's 16th birthday, he is left a gift – a magical wizard staff. Ian and Barley decide to try and bring back their father, Wilden (Kyle Bornheimer) for one day.

However, the spell doesn’t work as required and the brothers need to find a magical Phoenix Gem in order to bring back their father and have a chance to feel like a family once more…

While the Disney / Pixar machine can never really do wrong, sometimes you get productions that fail to really ignite the imagination or enjoyment of what these films were / are about. Director Dan Scanlon brings a solid voice team together for a moralistic story about being who you were born to be, having faith in your family and blah blah blah. The usual.

Animation wise, this is a tick box Pixar production of slick visuals, popping colour and a host of engrossing locations such as busy suburbs, far-reaching valleys and magical lairs. It feels a strange mix of human / elf / monster hybrids here populating the ‘Onward’ world, with hints of ‘Monsters Inc.’ and ‘Inside Out’, fused in magical world of myth and lore, a nice original touch for Pixar to tackle.

The voice talent is capable but never really immerse you in their characters, bar Chris Pratt as Barley thanks to his infectious passion.

Tom Holland as younger brother Ian doesn’t really bring him to life as much as you’d expect – he’s simply another teenager that fills out Tom Holland’s CV with a voice that feels like it still needs to break and a Marty McFly-esque pitch to it. There’s no range to his offering, and nothing that allows Ian to come out from Holland’s shadow. Pratt is thankfully the one who has most fun and offers some refreshing humour and voice work to Barley, so it's not all basic.

It does the job for a bright, poppy kids animation with strong morals running through it and the usual mix of sight gags and humour for all ages.

However, now and the subject matter of trying to bring back a dead relative sometimes feels a little grim, and devoid of real Disney magic.

The outcome can be seen miles away, and while it is visually sparkling, it just isn’t one that finds its footing as an original or memorable story from the Pixar machine

'Onward' is a Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar production

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