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"Onward" Movie Review

Updated on December 17, 2021
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Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry who hopes his writings will help launch his career.

If you could bring back a loved one for a day, would you do it? Would you go to the ends of the earth just to see that person one last time? We all have people we've lost that we miss, things we wish we had or hadn't said, and memories we wish we could change or revisit. That's the subject matter Onward tackles. While kids might not be able to fully grasp the emotional content in the film, adults will find themselves thinking of a particular person and a particular memory that they wish they could have back, even just for a day.

The film follows Ian and Barley Lightfoot, two elf brothers who are complete polar opposites. Ian is a reserved, shy kid who's just trying to make it through high school whereas Barley is a messy, nerdy manchild who is obsessed with stories of the olden times, dreaming about a time when magic was still used and practiced. On his 16th birthday, Ian receives his dad's old wizard staff and a Phoenix Gem as a gift with directions on how to cast a visitation spell, which would bring back his dad for 24 hours. When the Phoenix Gem breaks mid-spell, Ian and Barley find that only half of their dad has come back. Now, the two brothers embark on a quest to find another Phoenix Gem in order to finish the spell before time runs out and their dad disappears forever.

The thing I loved most about Onward was its pure honesty. Even though the story was set in a fantasy world, the emotions and the characters' actions felt so real. Pixar has a long-running trend of making me tear up and this film is no exception. The writers and creators have that ability to pull you in and make you feel what the characters are feeling and they make you reflect on your own experiences. Just like Toy Story made you reflect on your childhood, Onward makes you reflect on your loss. The whole time I was in the film, I couldn't stop thinking about my grandfather and how I wish I could see him one more day. There's an emotional heart-to-heart scene towards the end between Barley and Ian that really resonated with me. Just keep in mind that it's a good idea to bring a couple tissues with you to the theater.

The only thing negative I have to say about the film is that sometimes the humor felt a little forced and didn't always land properly. While Tom Holland and Chris Pratt had amazing chemistry and voiced their characters to perfection, it felt more like a writing problem. The writers, I think, focused more on the heartfelt content and didn't really put much effort into the comic relief portions. It's not a huge issue, but it's definitely there and obvious.

In conclusion, I will recommend Onward to anyone because the film really is for everyone. It may be animated and technically a fantasy but everyone can relate to the film whether it's Ian or Barley or even their mom or The Manticore. Everyone can relate to somebody and films like that are really hard to come by. I give the film a 3.5 out of 4.

© 2020 Nathan Jasper


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