On March 6, Disney and Pixar released Onward into theaters across the world as the newest film to come from the two studios’ successful partnership. It combined the voice talents of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, promising an entertaining story about two brothers and the fantastical journey they undertake. Reviews were favorable, and the film seemed to be on track to be a success for its companies.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that essentially shut theaters down, the film’s theatrical run was cut short, and it was sent to DVD only two weeks after its initial stint in theaters. On April 3, less than one month after its release, the film was then made available on Disney+, allowing those who missed the chance to see it in theaters to experience it in the comfort of their homes.
I didn’t know much about this film outside of its cast, but while I was browsing for something to watch one day, I decided to give it a try. Disney films, particularly those made with Pixar, have always been able to balance endearing stories with heartwarming emotion, so I had no reason to believe that Onward wouldn’t be good.
And after watching the film, I’m happy to say that it was every bit as good as I’d hoped, plus a little bit more.
The story takes place in a fantasy world where magic has been replaced by the convenience of technology. The creatures live essentially as we do, albeit with a slight blend of their mystical heritage and modernization. Two brothers take center stage of the film, and they are given the chance to bring back their deceased father for 24 hours with an ancient spell. Due to their inexperience with magic, however, the spell only half works, meaning that half of the father is brought back. Following this, the two brothers race against time to figure out how to bring back the rest of their father before their 24 hours run out.
The film then plays out as a quest to find the item that will bring the father back, but it’s also full of moments that push the characters into becoming better people. One brother learns to stop doubting himself while the other learns the importance of living in the moment, and both are brought closer to one another in the process. There’s triumph and sadness, realism and magic, and plenty of laughs to go around for all. It’s the epitome of the idea that the journey is more important than the destination, especially when one brother realizes that everything he’s ever wanted was with him the entire time.
The film is a wonderful addition to Disney’s lineup, equal parts strange and satisfying that doesn’t sacrifice substance for style. Hearing Tom Holland and Chris Pratt play off of each other is a joy in itself, and the animation elevates an already charming story to a thing of beauty.
If you’re looking for a film to escape in for a little while, I recommend giving Onward a try. It can both warm your heart and make you laugh in the same sentence, reminding viewers that there’s still a lot of good to be found in the world and people around us.