Film Review: Onward (2020)

Colorful cloudsWhen I saw the trailers for Onward, I thought the scene with unicorns trashing the garbage bins was a good sign. Onward wouldn’t not be the stereotypical fantasy with rainbows, evil godmothers and cotton candy. Unicorns are traditionally noble and honored animals yet in this scene they were fighting over the trash like a couple of grimy opossums. The film is introduced by the peculiar history of magic in the world of Ian & Barley Lightfoot (Tom Holland and Chris Pratt).

My favorite character was Barley. He was enthusiastic and courageous. It was fun to watch how, what started as his imaginary world, ended being closer to reality than his brother Ian (or me) was willing to believe. His enthusiasm seemed over the top when he pulls up to school to pick up Ian, but he also has a larger-than-life Fun Quotient.

One feature of the movie that was enjoyable was the many landscapes and sky scenes. They were varied and beautiful. One quirky scene shows a jet flying through the sky as the characters are looking for treasure. When I go back over the film in my mind, I can’t count how many different sets, characters and animated magical effects were there. It was obviously all hands on deck in coming up with the computer models for the film.

The second time I saw the movie, I was briefly distracted by knowing the famous voice actors behind Ian and Barley. It was a little jarring and didn’t add to my enjoyment of the film. Fortunately, after a few minutes, who the actors were drifted into the background and I wasn’t thinking about Spiderman and Star-Lord any more.

The film revealed a transformation of several characters. Ian and Barley, their mom Laurel Lightfoot  (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Colt Bronco (Mel Rodriguez) and The Manticore (Octavia Spencer) all were changed people by the end of the story. It was cool that the audience gets to see so many characters growing and changing. Perhaps Ian had the “primary” and most obvious transformation, but the story wasn’t just about him.

Hopefully, Disney make back it’s $1000-ish per frame that they invested in the movie. Based on how much I liked the movie, it would be a shame if it doesn’t pan out. I don’t want Disney to get cold feet and refuse to make more quirky animated films like Onward.

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