Thursday, March 5, 2020

Onward - Movie Review

The Movie: Onward

The Director: Dan Scanlon

The Cast: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, John Ratzenberger, Ali Wong, Tracey Ullman, Mel Rodriguez

The Story: Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there.

The Review:
When I first saw the trailer for this movie, my initial thought was that it didn't look like a Pixar movie. The character design and overall aesthetic just seemed a bit off compared to what the studio normally produces. Watching the movie changed that opinion a bit as the story is classic Pixar, the kind that hits all the emotional buttons and teaches lessons of family and personal growth. You know, the classic coming of age type of tale. Overall, I would put this somewhere in the middle of the pack if I were to rank all of Pixar's films which is something I might just do one of these days.

A highlight of the production for me was hearing Tom Holland and Chris Pratt constantly sparring as on screen animated siblings and their personalities really came through in the characters they played. You could definitely tell it was them and it was really cool to hear them doing something other than the iconic Marvel characters we have come to know them for. Also along for the ride are Octavia Spencer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus who's voices seem to be tailor made for animation work and of course, no Pixar movie would be complete without a John Ratzenberger cameo.

One of the areas I felt was lacking was the quality of the animation or maybe a better way to put it would be the production design and just the overall look of the film. I mean, the animation quality is top notch as Pixar movies always are, the style of the animation didn't grab me as much as I'm used to. There was nothing that I felt was stunning or jaw dropping to look at or maybe we're just so spoiled with modern animation that it's hard to keep raising the bar.

One of the things I had mentioned to a friend is how the look of the movie and characters felt like early renditions or rough drafts that would later be enhanced or changed to finalize that classic and magical quality the studio somehow seems to create with most of their films. Again, there's nothing really wrong with it, it's just sort of there and not something that will knock your socks off.

The story too is pretty basic although entertaining and definitely includes those emotionally powerful moments that Pixar story tellers have always been so good at. Director Dan Scanlon has been on the senior creative team at Pixar for many of their top movies including Inside Out, Coco, and Toy Story 4 so you know he's going to bring the goods. I really liked the idea of brothers at odds who have to work together because, well that's most brothers that have ever brothered so it's definitely going to be relatable and, having an older brother myself, I was able to dive right into that part of the story.

Most of the rest of the entertainment comes from taking Lord of the Rings and placing it in a modern day setting with centaurs driving vehicles instead of hoofing around and other types of mythical creatures doing more mundane things like owning restaurants and working construction jobs. Magic is largely absent from this world which is an unfortunate metaphor for the movie itself although as the brothers go on their kind of epic journey, the magic slowly returns both in their world and from a viewing perspective. What starts off as mundane builds up to a solid ending that ultimately left me satisfied and happy to have had the experience.

The Verdict:
Onward is a solid effort from a studio that is known for excellence. I enjoyed the movie and it's definitely worth seeing on the big screen just don't expect it to rank among the studios best efforts and you'll be just fine. That being said, the bar is pretty high when it comes to Pixar movies so this is in no way shape or form a bad movie. That and you can't go wrong with some Tom Holland and Chris Pratt even if it is just their voices.

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