Onward is the magical tale of two Elven brothers (Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) who discover an old spell left to them by their late father that gives them one final chance to spend time with him. Suffice to say everything doesn’t go quite go to plan and they are left with half the man they thought, and they have one day to find what they need to bring back all their dad, not just his legs!
Having a character that is just a set of legs would present a challenge to any filmmakers but not so to Pixar, the Dad is a charming creation and delivers some of the film’s standout scenes. It’s the comedy on offer here that proves to be one of the film’s obvious strengths. There is a definite ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ vibe to some of the physical gags on offer here, and that should always be applauded.
As we saw from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Chris Pratt and Tom Holland undoubtedly make for a charming double act but whether it’s a lack of experience with voice capture or just a lacklustre script they never quite manage to recreate that magic here. It’s not through a lack of trying, they just never seem to gel in same way they did with their live action performances.
The subject matter certainly tugs at the heartstrings and once again there is more to this Pixar production than initially meets the eye. At surface level it’s a whimsical magical adventure but at its core it’s story about coping with grief and knowing when to move on. This layered approach is something the studio is superb at and they don’t disappoint here, there is something for kids and adults alike.
For a film about such a heartfelt subject matter it’s a crying shame then, that Onward seems to lack heart. From a studio with the calibre of Pixar we are entitled to expect more, alongside Studio Ghibli they have set the gold standard in animation over recent years and have produced some absolutely timeless classics.
It’s not easy to put your finger on what has gone astray here but the film is lacking the magic associated with the studio’s best work, despite some of the humour landing the script and characters are lacking a spark of creativity. If it didn’t have the Pixar name on the title screen there are long stretches where you’d be given for thinking you were watching a run of the mill Dreamworks or Sony Animation project.
Things thankfully pick up towards the end and the finale makes for one of the year’s most impressive CG creations so far, if you didn’t think you could find an original take on a classic mythical creature then think again as Pixar definitely recover some of the previously lacking magic for the closing scenes.
Perhaps some of this criticism is unfair as Onward is a long way from being a failure, it’s just that Pixar have set themselves such a high standard that anything that falls short of greatness just doesn’t feel quite good enough.
Author: Paul, Bath store