With Onward, Pixar once again finds a way to make us cry in public (thankfully movie theaters are dark!). Their latest movie is a laugh filled adventure with that classic Pixar deeper message tucked inside. This gorgeous animated film is the story of two brothers and their quest to use the dying art of magic to bring their dad back for a single day.
Here’s the trailer:
Pixar’s tradition of opening the feature with a short continues with a new spin. Now that Disney owns both Pixar and Fox (who owns The Simpsons), the opening short is a Simpsons short. It’s completely kid appropriate with some extra subtle laughs for the grownups. It’s a fun bonus treat, especially since there’s no after credits bit (or at least there wasn’t at the advance showing).
Onward is stylistically gorgeous. The world Pixar has created is well developed and visually breathtaking. The mythical world is shown as matter of fact, helping the viewer to accept it and suspend disbelief. We get a quick history that sets up the universe our characters reside in that’s brief enough to keep the audience engaged but thorough enough so that we know the rules of the land.
The character development is top notch, as always. Brothers Barley and Ian may be night and day, but they’re still close and are drawn closer still during a time when many teen siblings may drift apart. The quest of bringing their father back for the day reignites their sibling bond, though their underlying issues will be brought to the surface under the strain of the adventure. From their clothes to the cadence of their voices, we learn quickly who they are and what their goals are. I particularly loved the mom character and how she was powerful in her own right. She is such a realistic parent, struggling to give them their independence while also keeping them safe.
The music accompanies the plot perfectly. There’s a mix of classic animated score with modern music that strikes just the right note in this modernly magical realm. Pairing modern music with fantastical set and character design makes the world relatable and draws the viewer further into the story.
While some moments do get a little intense, the intense moments are spread throughout and interspersed with humor to keep a balanced mood and maintain the interest of younger viewers. I think my kids, at ages 4 and 7, would be fine to see this in theaters. There are a couple of close calls, but this is a family movie with a family message. Pixar might make you cry, but they’ll make up for it. The dad’s death is a known fact from the previews, and anyone who has lost a parent will deeply relate to these two brothers and their quest. This film is harder emotionally for adults, much like Inside Out (both were directed by Pete Doctor). I expect my kids to enjoy the adventurous side and the brotherly love message and that those feelings will overshadow any emotional struggles the characters endure.
The overall message of a powerful sibling bond is one that hit home hard for me with my two boys. There are so many films that promote the power of sisterhood. Don’t get me wrong; I love these! I’m super close with my sister and these films speak to my heart about our sibling bond. But boys and brothers just don’t get the same treatment. To see two brothers, working together towards a common goal, sharing bits of their heart and learning and growing together…that’s magical in itself. It also further reinforces the message that boys do have feelings, and that is normal and healthy.
There is just so much to love about this film. It exceeded my expectations and I look forward to sharing it with my boys. With a wonderful plot, well developed characters, and a beautiful new world, this film is a delight.
Onward hits theaters this Friday, March 6.