“Onward” Review: A Touching Family Film That Goes Beyond Expectations

When Disney and Pixar release a film, you have a few expectations. You know it’s going to be family-friendly. It’s going to be funny and will involve an adventure or two. It’s going to be heartwarming. Onward checks all the boxes that’s become standards in Disney and Pixar’s partnership, but it pushes a bit further and gives us some unexpected turns.

In Onward, we are transported to a fantasy suburban world where magical creatures abound, but magic has become a thing of the past. Unicorns are rodents, while a police officer is a centaur. In this world where there are mermaids and pixies, magic is treated as a myth. We are introduced to Ian Lightfoot, an elf searching for a father figure since his dad died when he was young. When an opportunity arises for him to resurrect his father, it goes wrong and only the bottom half reappears. He goes on a quest with his older brother Barley, a history fanatic who believes in magic, to bring the rest of their dad back so they can spend time together.

Leading the cast is Tom Holland as Ian, the young elf. Unlike his role in Spies in Disguise, where it looked like his character was developed for him, the actor sinks his teeth in Onward and experiments with more emotional depth. Barley is voiced by Chris Pratt and he’s the perfect actor to bring the goofy character to life. I enjoyed how Barley isn’t portrayed as a bully, and instead comes off as a nerd. I found it refreshing. Another standout is Julia Louis-Dreyfus as their mother Laurel, who breathes a warm and maternal touch to the role.

One thing that stood out in Onward is its action sequences. It’s an adventure so it might be expected but the film took me to dizzying heights and had me on the edge of my seat several times. The advantage of going the animated route is that you can build a world and create intense situations, gravity be damned. The stakes are high and the brothers had some extremely close calls that had the audience gasping.

At the core of the film is a touching message, but not one that we expect. To be frank, the first half of the film can feel almost predictable, but the second half definitely picks up, especially when the action-packed scenes come in and we learn the true message of the movie. I don’t want to say more at the risk of revealing a spoiler, but a few tears were shed in the cinema.

Disney and Pixar continue their streak of heartwarming films. Onward is a worthy addition to its canon.


This story is in partnership with The Walt Disney Company. Onward opens in Philippine cinemas on March 4, 2020. For more information, follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Follow the hashtag #OnwardPH to join the conversations online.

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