Photo: Pixar Studios
Photo: Pixar Studios

Upward and Onward: Pixar Does It Again, Leaves Room for Improvement

5 mins read

There’s no denying how much I love Pixar’s movies and shorts. The success of films like Toy Story, Wall-E, Up, Inside Out, and Coco, proves that Pixar has accomplished a lot in the past 34 years. As admirable as much of their work is, when I heard their newest film Onward was a fantasy set in a suburban lifestyle, I was skeptical about the mixing of worlds. Even though the concept seemed more Disney-esque than the studio’s usual films, after watching more previews, I grew faith in an idea this studio hadn’t covered yet.

Here’s the premise: two teenage elves named Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt) are bequeathed a wizard staff from their late father who gives them a spell to bring him back for 24 hours. When they try it the first time, it doesn’t go as planned and they manage to only bring back half of him. In order to finish the spell, they have to go on a quest to find a special crystal whilst encountering Manticore (played by Octavia Spencer), Pixie Bikers, and the police department. Throughout the journey, the two boys grow closer and learn to appreciate both their flaws and positive attributes.

What I really liked about this movie was its incorporation of Pixar’s classic elements. The movie had an emotional connection between main characters that overcome incredible obstacles, a modern dialogue that is witty and topical, and an exhilarating plot that is both fantastical and realistic. Along with this, the relationship between both brothers is what moves the film forward, especially given that they’re both polar opposites. Even though Barley is upbeat and confident, and Ian is quiet and timid, their common motivation to get their father back is what bonds them. Both children and adults can identify with the main messages in the film and the struggle of losing a loved one without a proper goodbye. This also services the ending, which I dare not give it away, by showing how much they can understand they’ve grown and learned from their journey. 

Now it’s time to talk about the aspects of the film that make it inferior to other Pixar classics. For one, the emotional scenes (which Pixar is known for) aren’t given enough screen time for the audience to properly enjoy. Other than the ending, the more vulnerable moments deserved more attention. That same lack of attention is given to certain characters that are painted to be insignificant when they are actually essential to the main plot. Characters like the mother Laurel (played by Julia-Louis Dreyfus), Manticore, or the Pixie Bikers don’t get the chance to develop fully, and are only used for the sake of jokes rather than treated like people in your life you’re supposed to be close with. Also, what Onward failed to do, other Pixar films like Coco and Inside Out have succeeded. Other Pixar films actually introduced side characters that are given the proper focus they require. Whether those small characters are used to service the plot or simply make the audience laugh, they are clearly valued. 
So you’re probably assuming that I’m not a fan of this movie, but even though it has its flaws,  I can’t help but have a soft spot for certain aspects of the film. Thanks to its heart, well-produced main characters, easy-to-follow storyline, and classic Pixar humor, the film redeemed itself. I’m one of those people who hold the studio to a very high standard, which explains why it’s hard to call this a perfect masterpiece. It may not be Toy Story or Finding Nemo material, but it’s still a quest I would always say yes to joining. I give this movie a rating of 8/10.

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