Review: “Onward”

Two elf brothers go on a magical quest in their world where magic has been pushed aside in Pixar Animation Studios’ latest wonderment Onward.

Onward is the type of high concept movie that is a hallmark of Pixar. A film that sounds so bizarre and audacious, yet while you’re watching it, you feel completely at home. I call the filmmakers at Pixar “magicians” because that’s what they do so well—they create magical, unique film experiences using beautiful art, impressive technology, and real emotional resonance.

And magic is really what Onward is all about. The magical world where the film takes place is populated with nothing but magical creatures—mermaids, dwarfs, unicorns, dragons, wizards, etc.—but over time, the magic of their lives has given way to technology, suburban sprawl, and “progress.”

Our two protagonists, teenage elf brothers Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Ian (voiced by Tom Holland), are given a gift by their mother (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who has been a single parent ever since her husband, and the boys’ father, tragically passed away. (The dad died when Barley was very young and Ian was in utero.)

The gift is a magician’s staff and a magic crystal with a spell which supposedly will bring the father back to life for a day. While Barley is a major player of a “Dungeons & Dragons”-style of role-playing game and big believer in the past magical lore of the world they live in (again, mostly tied in with the D&D game), Ian, who turns 16 at the beginning of the film, is more practical and is just trying to find his place with his peer group and in his life.

Barley and Ian keep trying the spell and they begin to conjure up their dad’s body; however, the magic crystal breaks halfway through and only the lower half of their dad makes it back to the world. So, the boys, along with their deceased father’s legs, set out on a quest to try to find another crystal to finish the spell so they can spend some time with their dad before sunset causes the magic spell to end.

Onward at its core is really a buddy movie where the two brothers go on big adventure as they try to work together towards the common goal of spending time with their father. The film is a personal one for director Dan Scanlon, who lost his father at a young age and decided to pose the question of what it would be like to meet up with a deceased parent, if only briefly. Wrapping this emotional concept up in a buddy/fantasy movie was definitely a magic trick and overall the filmmakers really succeed.

Ultimately, the main part of the Pixar “magic,” and where Onward truly delivers, is in its emotional authenticity. I won’t give anything away, but during the final third of the film when everything starts coming together, the film really delivers a satisfying and meaningful emotional experience which speaks serious truth about family relationships. (You might want to bring a Kleenex or two with you to the theater.)

And just as a side note, a new Pixar short is not included in front of Onward (check out the plethora of great Pixar shorts now playing on Disney+); instead, we get a short starring The Simpsons (yes, those Simpsons) which are now part of the Disney family thanks to The Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox. The short is called Playdate with Destiny and it prominently features Maggie Simpson who gets smitten by a baby boy her age that she meets at the park. It felt a bit strange but not necessarily completely out of place to be watching a Simpsons short at a Disney movie. I guess it’s just where and how things are today.

Onward is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association for “action/peril and some mild thematic elements.”

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

As an added bonus, check out these cool Onward posters.

All images ©️ Disney/Pixar

TCM “Must-See Sci-Fi” Update for February 2020

I’m still having a blast with my 2020 movie project of watching all 50 movies listed in the cool book from Turner Classic Movies (TCM) called Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies that Are Out of This World by Sloan De Forest (Running Press, 2018; available at Amazon.com and Shop TCM). The complete list of 50 films is here.

Here’s the current rundown on the films I watched in February (courtesy of my Instagram feed).

Things to Come (1936)

The Thing from Another World (1951)

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

It Came from Outer Space (1953)

March 6, 2020 Podcast

Welcome to this week’s podcast!

New in Theaters

(New in the last couple of weeks, that is…)

Reviews

The Call of the Wild and Onward.

Classic Cinema Corner

I’m so excited to attend this year’s Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Classic Film Festival! Limited passes are still available. More details at tcm.com/festival.

Thanks for Tuning In!

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. Have fun at the movies this week and thanks again for your support.

February 12, 2020 Podcast

Happy Valentine’s Day week and welcome to this week’s podcast!

New Movie Roundup

Reviews and Commentary

The happy and triumphant return of the modest-budget Disney family film is happening on Disney+ with films like Noelle, Togo, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, and next month’s Stargirl. You should totally get Disney+ if you like this genre of films. Sign up at disneyplus.com.

Classic Cinema Corner

Thanks for Tuning In!

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe on Apple Podcasts. Have fun at the movies this week and thanks again for your support.

TCM “Must-See Sci-Fi” Update for January 2020

Sorry I’m a little slow in posting this, but I’ve been having a blast with my 2020 movie project of watching all 50 movies listed in the cool book from Turner Classic Movies (TCM) called Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies that Are Out of This World by Sloan De Forest (Running Press, 2018; available at Amazon.com and Shop TCM). The complete list of 50 films is here.

Here’s the current rundown on the films I watched in January (courtesy of my Instagram feed).

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Metropolis (1927)

Frankenstein (1931)

Island of Lost Souls (1932)

The Invisible Man (1933)

February 3, 2020 Podcast

Welcome to this week’s podcast! And happy Oscars week!

New Movie Roundup

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (Warner Bros.)

Also of Note in Theaters

Love Story (1970), part of the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Big Screen Classics series, February 9 and 12 in select theaters. Visit fathomevents.com/tcm for showtimes and to find a theater near

2020 Oscar Best Picture Showcase at Cinemark Theatres February 3-9

All Things Oscars

Global Movie Day is February 8. Learn more here. #GlobalMovieDay

Download a printable Oscar ballot here.

Here are links to all of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences social media feeds:
Twitter 
Instagram
Facebook 
YouTube

Must-See Sci-Fi Project

I’m having fun and am on target with watching the 50 science fiction films listed in the cool Turner Classic Movies (TCM) book called Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies that Are Out of This World by Sloan De Forest (Running Press, 2018; available at Amazon.com and Shop TCM). (And I said that I’ve watched five of the films but I’ve actually watched six so far…my bad.) More details about the book and movie watching project are on this blog post.

Here are the films I’ve watched so far:

  1. A Trip to the Moon (1902)
  2. Metropolis (1927)
  3. Frankenstein (1931)
  4. Island of Lost Souls (1932)
  5. The Invisible Man (1933)
  6. Things to Come (1936)

Feel free to follow along on the Movies Past and Present Instagram feed.

Thanks for Tuning In!

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe on Apple Podcasts. Have fun at the movies this week and thanks again for your support.

New Character Posters for “F9”

Check out these new character posters for F9 (the film formerly known as Fast & Furious 9), the next movie in “The Fast Saga.”

All Images ©️ Universal Pictures

And, if you can stand it, here’s the first official teaser trailer for the film where, yet again, “The Fast Saga” takes us to a place where the laws of gravity and mortality don’t exist…

F9 opens in theaters on May 22.

January 10, 2020 Podcast

Happy New Year and welcome to the first Movies Past and Present podcast of 2020!

New Movie Roundup

New in Theaters This Weekend

Worth Checking Out

Reviews

Both of these films are still in theaters (at least in my market).

Movies I’m Excited to See in 2020

Thanks for Tuning In!

Listen to the podcast below or subscribe on Apple Podcasts. Have fun at the movies this week and thanks again for your support.