In light of recent events, and concerning the massive number of new films that have delayed their releases in response to COVID-19, I will not be reviewing any new 2020 releases for a while. It's not that I'm afraid of going to a movie theater and getting the virus, it's that the few films that aren't delaying their releases are simply not worth seeing and reviewing... and it's also just a good thing in general to avoid those types of social environments. I don't know when I'll get back to reviewing releases from this year, it all depends on when Coronavirus can finally be controlled and movies will be released as planned again.
Until that happens, I will not be completely stopping my reviews. What I'll do instead is each Friday reviewing an old Hollywood classic. That way, you get to look up on more recommendations that may be outside your circle of familiarity.
Thanks for understanding, this is a difficult and confusing time for all of us, so let's be supportive of one another and not let this fear dictate our lives.
Now, onto my review of Onward:
Incredible how Pixar went from creating consistent instant-classics with a few forgetful pieces, to it now being the other way around. Thinking back to when I was in grade school, I loved the studio’s intense rigor to tell good “Hero’s Journey” types of personally inspired stories with such imagination. Nowadays, the SparkShorts Program’s films are greater than most of the feature films. While not as impactful as Kitbull, while also less little-kiddish than The Good Dinosaur, Onward falls into a category of its own by achieving less imagination than its full potential, instead resorting to “good enough.”
In looking at this fantasy world inhabited by elves, centaurs, ogres, trolls, cyclopes, gremlins, sprites, and the like, first notice the police officer centaur. This guy lives an Average Joe existence within his supposedly ordinary world, he neigh-laughs, he knocks into the house‘s furniture, he can‘t fit inside his car, and he‘s dating an elf (?). That‘s the normal here. Although it once wasn’t so normal by our standards, as sorcery once thrived everywhere, until the ease of technology came in. Thus, magic faded away for smart phones and electronic appliances. Huh, guess this world isn’t so different from ours after all! Well, it’s still full of details that don’t make sense, such as the fact that this planet of theirs has two moons. These details are all meant to add to the fun of the world, such as making the dragons dogs and the unicorns alley cats, yet the casting of the characters feels random.
Think of it this way: If Ian the elf, the main character, was a faun instead, the story remains the same. If the unicorns were instead dogs and the dragons were instead alley cats, the story remains the same. Yet making sense isn‘t the priority here, it’s implementing whatever would entertain kids of all ages, including a “Dungeons-and-Dragons” type of game called “Quest of Yore,” which in their reality is historically accurate to their past. That’s really the ultimate detail that makes this film an appropriate representation of old European culture in the way it brings an old legend to the modern day.
As for the story, Ian and his brother, Barley go on a journey to bring their deceased father back for a day, they already tried to bring him back with his old staff and gem, but the spell failed; he just came back as a pair of disembodied legs. The animation of these legs is fantastic, but just the sight of it could scare younger kids (and adults in that regard). Yet the possibilites of this character limitation is exploited well, down to the way the sons interact with those legs by only touching the feet, and a neat dance moment serves as more of a method of bringing common ground between the two brothers.
Thus, the story isn’t so much about bringing dad back, it’s more about bringing closer together two vastly different siblings. The younger of those brothers is afraid of everything: the one who contains the wizard powers his father hand, but without the confidence to carry it out. The older brother is afraid of nothing: the one who isn’t quite sympathetic as he hides a big pile of written parking violations. Together, their thresholds are crossed, and the high-stake obstacles help them overcome their own obstacles. The masculine journey is well outlined, however, their mother takes too long of breaks from the story for her to be well-rounded.
That thus means the story still has all the beats of a predictable Disney film: a socially awkward kid/teenager lives beneath a single parent, a dog type of animal skids around purely for cute appeal, something extraordinary disrupts his everyday dull life, the co-adventurer causes disagreements, once stuff seems to go great, the two leads have a big verbal fight, the climax happens, a change of heart happens, and boom: happily ever after. The end.
In addition, it’s equally as inappropriate as some Disney Channel original movie, one character says, “son of a-” and the heroes steal, lie, and abandon mom without much explanation. It’s also badly paced like a Disney Channel original, particularly in the first half, which moves so fast, there is barely any breathing space between lines of dialogue. This even looks like a movie from the time of Hannah Montana’s pop culture reign; the texturing leaves quite a bit to be desired. Nothing seen here is a modern marvel of technology, nor is anything of significance achieved.
Rather, it’s just trying to be another serviceable product of the Pixar brand, which it does rather well. The voice actors do what they can, the best performance being Octavia Spencer, and Tom Holland as the lead conveys the right amount of stress-inducing awkwardness for each appropriate moment. The other touches also remain true to the clever jokes and creativity that Pixar was known for, it includes a funny dragon design made of street scraps and a biker gang of sprites that terrorize a gas station shop. But at the same time, the tension in stakes are there, a scene over a bottomless pit even gave me a borderline heart attack! Then of course, to familiar Pixar fashion, some people will be crying quite a bit by the end.
How amazing, while some things out there could assumedly never happen, we always have Pixar to remind us of those everyday miracles! Never say never, because remember the multiple eye-witness accounts that told about Jesus Christ! Same thing here, you’d never think that ten years ago we’d have a family movie that says a teenager does not necessarily require a father to be a man as long as he finds a similar role model, but now we got such a movie with that thought-evoking message! Even if the technology isn’t anything remarkable, this great nontraditional message could push universally enjoyable family entertainment into more mature themes, so we can press Onward to a magical future!
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Disney Movies. Disney. Web. <https://movies.disney.com/onward>.
Disney/Pixar. “Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) in Onward (Disney/Pixar).” Digital image. National Review. 3 Mar 2020. Web. <https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/movie-review-onward-masterpiece-about-higher-things-in-life/>.