Disney’s “Onward” doesn’t disappoint with digital release


Katherine Hogan

It is safe to say my expectations were very high when it came to the movie “Onward.” After all, it is an animated film by Disney AND Pixar, stars the voices of Tom Holland AND Chris Pratt – two actors I am practically in love with – and involved magic. To me, it seemed like it “Onward” was set up to be another Disney knockout.
I was definitely not disappointed when I was finally able to watch “Onward” via Disney Plus on April 3, when Disney thankfully came in clutch and released digitally as the theater release was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Onward” starts when a very timid 16-year-old elf named Ian (Tom Holland) and his much cooler older brother Barley (Chris Pratt) are gifted a magical, wand-like item by their single mother on Ian’s birthday. Even though Ian and his brother are elves and have a pet dragon, they seem to pretty much be “regular” people. After all, Barley spends his gap year playing magic roleplay games and Ian can’t get up the courage to merge into traffic on the freeway.
Overall, if I had to describe this movie in one word, I would say it was cute. This is not unsurprising for the Disney and Pixar brand of course, but this movie was especially enjoyable for me — a 20 something college student – because I could tell the care that the creators put into it and the overall message was very moving.
For example, in some of the first scenes, traditionally majestic unicorns are now seen as trash pandas outside of Ian’s house and his pet is a tiny dragon. These choices to take the traditional connotations of certain magical creatures and turn them into something unexpected instead always left me laughing and left me more appreciative of the movie as a whole.
Overall, I thought the messages of this movie were great as well:appreciating the family we have in whatever from it comes to us while still remembering our roots is something that everyone can identify with.
Ian comes to appreciate the bond he has with his brother while on a quest to bring their dad back for a single day using magic which turns out to be real and not just part of Barley’s roleplaying games.
Unfortunately, after Ian casts a spell to bring their father back for one day, the magic goes awry and Dad appears as only a pair of legs. And the boys really need to fix that if they want the heartwarming reunion that they had imagined.
The most heartwarming thing about this quest to bring back dad was not about a father-son bond but about the bond between the brothers. Throughout the quest, Ian and Barley spent a lot of quality time together, and Barley helped Ian grow in his confidence and his newfound magical powers.
And of course, like all magical quests, it led to where the adventures least expected, which also allowed them to discover new things.
The only critique I have for this movie was that I needed more of the badass single mother. While I can understand the decision to center the story on brotherly love, I think Mom was also an important influence in Ian’s life, and that was not noted nearly enough throughout the movie.
I just wanted to see more of her character development. It is clear that she had some as she first appears working out to Zumba and yelling at her sons to clean up, and she ends the film by leaving for a girl’s night, battle axe in hand. All of this seemed to happen off screen, though, which drove me nuts. I was never clear on how she went from Zumba to sword fighting and wish I had seen more of that change.
Featured image courtesy of Disney.