Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Onward

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Copyright: Disney/Pixar

I’m either too old or too jaded to enjoy Disney films, by the looks of it I’m one of the few people in my generation to suffer from this issue. An inability to enjoy their placid formula of modern filmmaking, I hope you’ll forgive me for looking elsewhere for compelling animated classics. But there’s simply no escaping the inevitabilities of the powerhouse conglomerate. It feels like every other week I have a whole pile of new releases from Disney to work through, and Onward was something I’d put on the backburner for months. Something I had seen, written notes for, but simply couldn’t bring myself to review. 

There’s good reason for that, from the strangely lacklustre story to the stifled animation that makes no innovative or major changes to the Disney brand of modern days. Maybe I’m just sick of all the computer-generated stuff they release, especially their efforts of the past decade. It feels wholly lifeless, and Onward is no exception to this. Sleek animation can get you only so far, and whilst I don’t doubt the credibility and dedication of those crafting these pieces, I do question whether their heart and soul is in the right place. No moment within this film strikes me as soulful, or at all processed by a team of animators. The story is stuffy and weak, the writing is less than average, and you have all the usual stereotypes of the genre slotted in for good measure. 

Blame can be assigned to many people with this. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, perhaps, as their leading duo dynamic has all the weak charm and heart you’d expect of a product made on an assembly line. It’s like chewing on wallpaper for some hope of nourishment, returning for bite after bite to see if the aftertaste is a by-product of cheap paint or has the smackings of ingenuity. I’m afraid to say that Dan Scanlon can offer us nothing more than bland wallpaper in this world of mine, and he expects us to chow down on bowl after bowl of tame, study-group approved drivel.  

The strangest incantation of Weekend at Bernie’s I’ve ever seen, we follow Barley and Ian Lightfoot as they take their Dad’s legs on an adventure through a once mythical land. A great deal of the vocal performances lead to some drab and unconvincing scenes in which Holland and Pratt must seek out a gem to bring back the other half of their father. That’s basically all there is to Onward, the sleek, modern-era of Disney’s animation coupled with two veterans of the Disney brand doing things only Disney can get away with. I don’t mean subterfuge; I mean cliché and repetitive storytelling. You’ll have seen or heard this bland tale of bonding brothers and grief-stricken families all before, but you’ll surely have had it represented better than this shoddy embarrassment that takes no risks. Playing it safe in a field Disney themselves have overpopulated with similar filler and bland, blanket statements on everything ranging from emotional wellbeing to ecological welfare, fighting for your rights, and why you should put rats to work in kitchens. I worry Disney and Pixar’s collaborations are falling into self-parody.