Nerdlocker Movie Review: Onward


“Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.” -Anne Roiphe

The loss of a loved one is a tough thing to talk about. Considering it’s something every last living creature faces you would think otherwise but in reality it’s one of the hardest things to face, whether one’s own mortality or that of others. Needless to say it’s a subject we can all relate to however differently we may approach it. I guess you could say it also depends on how it, loss, squeezes its way into our reality. Some of us grow old lucky enough to see our parents do the same. Some of us lose those closest to us entirely too soon and seemingly without reason, something life has never really concerned itself with, that of reason I mean.

One of the greatest advantages of living in the modern age is in some intangible way we can bridge that gap between death and complete loss. We have photographs, videos, tapes, voicemail and so on. These things allow us to hold onto a little something from someone who meant a whole lot of something.

With the magic of Pixar, a tape recording and a sixteenth birthday can make the improbability of magic an absolute reality. Once death meant permanence now means a second chance to two brothers suddenly gifted with actual magic in the form of a staff and a father’s final wish before his untimely passing. When the younger brother turns a particular age he and his brother are faced with an impossible task of bringing back their father for a single 24-hour period. With complications come a harrowing journey to finally embrace their father for the first and final time only to discover that love they missed out on merely came from a different source, one that was there the entire time.

Onward features a stellar cast with Chris Pratt and Tom Holland as two brothers, Barley and Ian stumbling their way towards an uncertain destiny of connection and realization. In support is Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the warrior mother of two boys determined to find themselves in a constant state of turmoil. A highlight performance comes from Octavia Spencer as Manticore who must find a balance between modern adult responsibilities and maintaining her inner beast, once feared by any who witnessed her. But bills have to be paid unfortunately.

Things we already know about Onward: it’s Pixar so every effort was given to bring their latest adventure to colorful existence. It’s Pixar so we know visually speaking it’s second to none featuring animation that is an artform all its own, beautifully and meticulously constructed. It’s Pixar so the story is likely something outlandishly creative but always grounded in a way that so many can relate to finding ourselves in the characters on screen, even the mythical ones with tails and fire breathing. And it wouldn’t be Pixar if at some point it didn’t try to drain a tear or two from those eyeballs of ours, finding the humanity and tragedy but also the beauty in self growth and what it means to give life a chance, even in the face of great loss. Onward shows that life is worth the effort and those closest to us can be there in ways we never realized.

I have to be honest and say while I can acknowledge this particular effort from Pixar isn’t their best it still manages to be something greater than what most cartoons even attempt to become. That said, as someone who has experienced more than his fair share of loss in recent years, this movie evokes certain emotions that might not have come forth otherwise. I am drawn to this movie because of my past encounters with death and how I clung to those I love and how they stuck close to me.

This movie is about two brothers facing a life without the father they never really knew. I lost my father almost a year ago to the day so in a profound way I relate to these characters just trying to continue on, even when life kicks them squarely in the ass. For this reason I may be more drawn to this movie than others and for that reason I have to admit that my score for this film we likely be affected.

That said I can see regardless of my own experiences, Onward is a solid adventure featuring magic and comedy intertwined in hilarious fashion the whole family can enjoy. Unlike Frozen 2 with singing every two seconds, Onward doesn’t bombard the senses with irritating earworms that give parents headaches as they purchase ridiculous movie merchandise for their children who will outgrow it in a matter of weeks. Not a fan of Frozen or its sequel if you couldn’t tell. Anyhoo… Onward is fantastic. It is a visual feast replete with original storytelling, charismatic characters, meaningful, relatable moments meant to tug at the heart strings and remind us of what’s important in life. A great cartoon for the whole family with absolutely no musical numbers, can’t go wrong.

I’d like to add that as I wrote this I was constantly thinking of my puppy, Bandit, whom I recently lost unexpectedly just two days prior. He was only 3 years old so my time with him was unfairly cut short. I dedicate this review to him, I miss him and I love him.

Rated PG For: action/peril and some mild thematic elements
Runtime: 114 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Starring: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Octavia Spencer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Directed By: Dan Scanlon

Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting(voice): 5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls

Buy to Own: Yes

Check out the trailer below:

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Chase Gifford

"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world"-Jean-Luc Godard