Moving ‘Onward’

“Onward” hit Disney+ today, so I immediately wanted to watch it. I’d wanted to see it in the theater, but then all of this mess started.From the time I saw the trailer, it immediately grabbed me. The combination of a modern world that used to be steeped in the tropes of epic fantasy was appealing, and the scenes on display, highlighted by The Cars’ “Magic,” one of my favorite songs, sold me.

I’ll be fair here and say it’s not Pixar’s best film. That crown still belongs — in my opinion only — to “Coco.” That film is a crowning achievement of design, storytelling, music, and heart.What makes “Onward” enjoyable is its meticulous world-building, its obvious, broad humor, a dozen dozen brilliant little Easter eggs, and the core of its story. It does not have the immediate gut-punch of “Up,” the wistful insight of “Inside Out,” or the gift of pedigree afforded to the “Toy Story” franchise. It’s a slightly lesser film than the first “Incredibles,” but certainly above its sequel and anything the “Cars” franchise has mustered.

I’d put it personally somewhere around “Ratatouille,” maybe a bit below “Wall-E.”Admittedly I’m a sucker for the fantasy elements, including the finding of lost ways, and the story, boys in search of their father, or at least a better understanding of their father, is almost tailor-made to elicit tears at appropriate moments.

It leans deeply on comedy, and so it has a fairly loose ambiance. But there are some important things being said about how our loved ones live on in ourselves and our families. Visually, it’s stunning. A few scenes, if you squint, are photographically realistic.

Voice acting is great, although again you’d expect that. Especially with Tom Holland and Chris Pratt on board as our leads.The resolution is satisfying, but I hope this is not the last we see of this world. The changes at the end open up wide vistas for sequels or a TV series. I’d hate to see all of that world construction go to waste.

The film was released at an unfortunate time, and I’m happy that D+ is giving a wider audience an opportunity to see it. I just hope we get more somehow.

There’s a whole world out there to explore, plenty of adventure to be had, and lots of Gelatinous Cubes and legendary foes to best for cool XP.

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