Disney and Pixar’s latest film, Onward, takes family fun, magical gags, and Pixar-level heart on a new adventure — one that, at times, feels more like a true action movie than a kids’ comedy.
Like many family films before it, Onward is a charming tale with great lessons about courage, confidence, and the journeys we take to find ourselves. As a Pixar film, it most appropriately takes an emotional path to get there. With the personal subject matter about losing a loved one, the film tackles grief and the importance of holding on to the ones we can still share our lives with in a very significant and heartfelt way that even little ones can digest.
The film is also very funny, clever, and truly adventurous. Most action scenes play like an epic espionage thriller: car chases, burning buildings, and high stakes. However, these moments are never scary, only a little intense. If your family is full of adventure-seekers, this movie could feature some of the year’s best moments: The epic final battle with a concrete dragon is definitely sure to thrill.
For the rest of us, Onward still packs in the laughs and joy Disney fans have come to expect. Ian’s missteps in his magic lessons lead to some naturally comical results, such as accidentally shrinking his brother Barley down to pixie size when a spell goes wrong. Ian and Barley’s mom, played expertly by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, packs a few fun punches as a loving but protective character. Her new boyfriend, centaur cop Colt Bronco, also shines by providing some light, eye roll-worthy sayings as the would-be stepdad you love to make fun of IRL.
Watching the animated film, like setting off on any great adventure, brings constant surprises with big-belly ups and heart-wrenching downs around every corner. In one touching scene after a strained moment between Ian and Barley, their Dad, in his waist-down form, takes to the rhythms of Barley’s car stereo, welcoming a cheesy and heartwarming dance break with embarrassing and off-beat toe-tapping.
Despite the mystical setting, the movie isn’t that far-fetched and is very easy to follow, regardless of age or interest in fantasy. The only possible hesitation is the repeated use of on-screen text that might be hard for younger viewers to read in time. Ian Lightfoot keeps a handy notebook with him, writing sentences that might make a little one lean-in and ask for clarification.
Just as in Disney’s Frozen, Onward’s true climax lies in recognizing the love between two siblings suffering a shared loss. The Pixar film takes you on an exciting ride to new heart-pounding heights for the Pixar catalog, but it nevertheless grounds you with the emotional center for which the animators are known. Onward is a film that sticks with you for all the right reasons, and it will surely become a Pixar favorite.
Onward hits theaters nationwide on March 6.