ONWARD

★★★

NOT THE FAIRYTALE PIXAR FILM WE WANTED

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Lily Meek
4th March 2020

You know when you go to a restaurant and they ask if you want sparkling or still? And maybe it's that special occasion... a hot first date, holiday time, anniversary - you say sparkling and you feel slightly boujey for it? At the end of the day, it's still water. They're serving the same function; one just has more notoriety than the other. 'Toy Story', 'Incredibles', 'Inside Out', they're all sparkling - 'Onward,' is still. It's not bad, it does the same thing for you. On any usual day, it'd be just fine. This film just doesn't quite have the fizz - the pizzazz - as all the others. Did I still shed a tear? Yes. Did I laugh a little? Yes. The animation? Fantastic. Did I have a fun time? Of course. As the credits rolled, did I write everybody saying they had to see it? Not exactly.

'Onward' is the adventure of Ian (Tom Holland; 'Spider-man: Homecoming', 'Avengers: Endgame') and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt; 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' 'Jurassic World') as they attempt to find the phoenix stone. The stone is the key to completing the spell that brings back to life their beloved father for one day. Of course, along the way, the two must combat naysayers, overcome obstacles, find themselves and explore the true meaning of brotherhood.

SWITCH: 'ONWARD' TEASER TRAILER

There's just one problem - that "fizz" I was talking about is the absence of a little sophistication. Usually, Pixar pulls out the big stops with this kind of stuff - it's the king of subliminal plot provocations. 'Wall-E' gave the world a big slap on the wrist for heck's sake with a polluted planet and obese people. 'Up' explored the innocence of the elderly (with darker themes too), and 'Inside Out' was written so intelligently - educating kids on the importance of embracing all their emotions. Maybe I missed something, but 'Onward' just didn't do that for me. The message was a little lost. Was it that I should love my siblings? (I know. My mum used to tell me every day) or maybe it was that people who take gap years aren't dropkicks? If you're an introvert, wait until you learn magic and then everyone will accept you?

Pixar usually gets the award for simple storytelling done splendidly. Still waters run deep - and you realise, diving into their stories, there is so much to analyse. Ironically, 'Onward' doesn't have that magic behind it. Although, it does deserve to be praised for its colour, detail and animation. It's an onscreen visual feast. At first, I thought maybe I was expecting too much. I didn't think you could have such detailed world-building with an exceptional story. And then I realised 'Coco' pulled it off tremendously. And to further my earlier point - that is a sublime story with cultural exploration, themes of family, ancestry, forgiveness and passion.

This is the Pixar edition of 'Trolls'. It's the one that got away, because it wasn't intended to make us (adults) happy.

At the end of the day, I still came out charmed and entertained - just not wowed. This doesn't change the fact that my five-year-old niece will buy it on DVD and make me watch it five times in one day. The children in the theatre were laughing, pointing and having fun. This is the Pixar edition of 'Trolls'. It's the one that got away, because it wasn't intended to make us (adults) happy. It's a love letter to them; the fairies, the unicorns, the magic and the dragons - it's for the kids. In that respect, I'm willing to let this one slide.

Animation has such an important job. The messages I was talking about earlier are not just intended to teach kids things - we learn from them too. I think that's what made 'Onward' a little disappointing: I didn't come out having learned something new in the context of my adult life. Nonetheless, it's still a lovely allegorical tale that promotes brotherhood, adventure and generosity. Animation's got a big duty of shaping up future generations from a young age, and they can't always deliver the goods for all. With that, I sign off - eagerly awaiting Pixar's next drop where, fingers crossed, I get to discover something new too... don't forget the big kids, Pixar.

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