Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Onward

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching.  Offward!



Onward – 5 out of 5

Pixar’s track record is so strong that I’ll pretty much see everything they make with little to no persuading.  For the most part, I adore all their films.  Sure, there are the exceptions like the Cars franchise but, beyond this, I really enjoy their movies.  They tell stories in way so few animation studios will and craft features that have a perfect balance of heart and humor.  Their latest; Onward, continues this path and brings forth a magical film—and not just because it involved magic.

                                                                                                                       Pixar Animation Studios
Lightning bolt!  Lightning bolt!  Lightning bolt!

                                                                           Pixar Animation Studios
I feel like I'm a combination of both of these characters...
in that the dumb and awkward parts of both of them
combined to form me.
In a fantasy world inhabited by mythical creatures, magic eventually becomes forgotten as the world advances through technology.  Now, in modern times, the elf Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is turning 16 and his older brother Barley (Chris Pratt) believes he needs to take a magical quest as a rite of passage.  His mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), on the other hand, simply fulfills the wish of her late husband and gives the boys a gift that was to be bestowed upon them when both were over 16.  The gift is a magical staff with a rare gem and a spell that will allow the boys’ father to return to the world for one full day.  Initially hesitant, Ian discovers he has a natural ability for magic and is able to cast the spell…but, sadly, not completely.  Their father returns only from the waist down but Barley informs Ian that if they locate another magical gem they can complete the spell.  Now the two brothers set off to find the gem but their mother is quickly behind them trying to help them because their journey could also end up with a curse being unleashed.

                                                                                                         Pixar Animation Studios
Now kick on the mixtape with Van Halen and Whitesnake and take off on an adventure!

                                                                                        Pixar Animation Studios
More movies need to have unicorns as raccoon-like vermin.
I’m always impressed with the storytelling that Pixar creates.  While I won’t argue that they are the only great animated storytellers in the game, I will say that I love how they balance humor with real dramatic themes and beautiful explorations of the heart.  Not only are they capable of making features that are laugh-out-loud funny but they can make you cry and they do this without feeling like you are jumping in-between tones.  There is a natural flow to their films and their stories that is wholly unique and truly beautiful.  I realize this may sound like I am overselling the company and giving them praise that feels just a touch “over-the-top” but I truly feel they deserve this because they take such unique routes to craft things that are easily relatable and sympathetic.  For example, Onward really spoke to me because it centers on the idea of family and losing a parent.  I’ve been criticized in the past for “talking too much about me” in my reviews but I always see entertainment and media as a personal experience and a review is what you take away from the product.  I lost my father in 2000 so watching an animated film that is about two brothers who are literally on a magical quest just so they can have one more day with their father really hit at the core of me.  Yes, this means I cried like crazy in a crowded theater to this one but it also showed how Pixar will take these real-life issues and feelings we all have and place them in these fantastic stories and they still feel genuine and authentic.

                                                                                                                    Pixar Animation Studios
Look at those stupidly adorable kids.

Another element that I really liked about the story is seeing a mystical world with mythical creatures like elves, pixies, and centaurs taking on a modern day aesthetic.  It’s amusing to see basically our existence replaced with mythical creatures and it resulted in a formula that is a lot of fun.  It also allowed for some really great visuals for the film and animation that is meeting Pixar’s usual high standards.  With every movie they release I am always impressed with what they create and this is just another example of that amazing progression.  From a design level, they created a world that has the right levels of our world and mystical whimsy and the way they animated the characters in this space was truly impressive.  For example, the Lightfoot father is just a lower torso (who eventually is given a “dummy” upper torso by Ian) and being able to animated a character like this can’t be an easy task because how do you showcase emotional responses to a character that is lacking a head and upper body?  And therein lies the brilliance because they were able to animate a non-verbal performance, both with and without the dummy upper half, to create a character that is easily understandable and is never a mystery when it concerns figuring out what they are going through.

                                                                                                                         Pixar Animation Studios
What they don't show you is the plane of existence where the upper half is.
All it does is scream in terror and pain.

                                                                                      Pixar Animation Studios
Look, I don't want to be weird but the whole movie
I kept saying to myself that Laurel Lightfoot is hot.
The voice cast in this film is great!  Tom Holland and Christ Pratt perfectly embody their characters and do a tremendous job of showcasing their connection as brothers but also the conflict that comes from being siblings.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus is very entertaining as Laurel Lightfoot the mother and is able to embody the protective nature of a parent but also a badass and funny side as well.  Octavia Spencer is crazy fun as Corey the Manticore; a character who accidentally helps the boys on their journey, and I really enjoyed seeing Mel Rodriguez show up as Laurel’s boyfriend and centaur cop who is out to stop the boys.  I’m a really big fan of Rodriguez’s work on The Last Man on Earth (friggin’ Todd) and it just made me happy to hear him in this one.  He was legit great and very amusing as the character too so I don’t want it to sound like I only enjoyed him in this one due to past projects.  Overall, the cast in this one is fantastic and really made the film a fun, entertaining, and emotional ride.

                                                                                                          Pixar Animation Studios
Spencer was so fun as Corey that I wanted her to be on the journey with the brothers.

Onward is keeping with the tradition of Pixar’s work and delivers a film that is overflowing with heart and emotion but doesn’t rob you of a fun, entertaining experience.  The characters are great, the cast is terrific, the animation looks amazing, and the story is incredible.  Granted, my own experiences may have tinted this one brighter than what others may think it is but I really enjoyed this one and will personally say that I loved it!

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