Onward is the latest addition to Pixar’s catalog. It’s the story of two teenage elf brothers who adventure to “discover if there is still a little magic left out there.” We saw the film in 4DX and, boy, are we glad we did.
The movie follows Lightfoot brothers Barley and Ian. Chris Pratt voices Barley and Tom Holland voices Ian. Barley is the rebel of the family, with his off-the-wall antics typically getting him in trouble. Ian is more of an introvert. He’s shy and usually keeps to himself. Their relationship is the heart of the film, which showcases a typical big brother/little brother dynamic.
In Onward, the two brothers desperately want to resurrect their late father. We see this idea come to fruition when Ian’s mother gives him a present from his dad on his 16th birthday. We then see the story start to unfold. As each obstacle is thrown their way in the adventure tale, the brothers have to use what they thought were their weaknesses to prevail.
One of the biggest problems with Onward is the character development for Barley. Although he was the rebel, his character was one giant cliché. He’s full of stereotypical one-liners and underwhelming dialogue throughout. Barley’s supposed to be a part of the heart of the film but the connection just wasn’t here.
Ordinarily, Pixar movies are well-written (think Toy Story, WALL-E and Up), but the same can’t be said for Onward. In this movie, the writing was the weakest link. We see the film have a slow build with the hopes that transitioning in-between acts would see a pickup. Sadly, this never happened. The writing in the first two acts was so uneventful that, when we reached the film’s climax, there wasn’t enough interest to keep me invested.
Although the film was underwhelming as a whole, it was truly saved by 4DX. They did a great job sprinkling in the elevated experience throughout. There were two car chase sequences in particular that utilized and enhanced the experience as they used every one of the 4DX tools.
Onward provided a fantastic premise but was hurt by its poor execution which led to it feeling unimportant. The pacing was off, the jokes were lame and the payoff was just mediocre. We’ve come to expect so much more from Pixar and this movie didn’t reach that same level.
Note: If you’re going to check out the new Disney/Pixar film, we recommend getting there early. As always, they played a short before the feature film. The short featured Maggie Simpson falling in love with a boy on the playground. The short’s writing was brilliant, hilarious and offered a unique look inside the world of The Simpsons.
Ricky Valero is a co-host of the Music City Drive-In Podcast. You can listen to that podcast here.