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Onward (2020)

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  • Onward (2020)

    We had this movie booked to start on Friday, March 20, but that was the day we shut down for the Coronapocolypse. To give our projector its one-week workout, my wife and I watched "Onward" a couple of nights ago before the key expired.

    I have to admit, I was a little put off by the trailers for this one. But then I thought, the trailers for Pixar movies are often kind of ambiguous. They seem to be better than most studios at not giving away all the plot points in the trailers. So I had hope.

    Alas, this movie has vaulted lickety-split to the very bottom of my Pixar list. To quote Roger Ebert, I hated, hated, hated it. I wouldn't want to watch it again if I was paid to do it.

    It was the first Pixar movie that cut a big page out of the Dreamworks playbook, meaning the movie is mostly a mad dash from one action scene to the next, with little stops in between for plot advancement. Worse, this movie falls right into the same trap that many super-hero movies do, which is that they give their hero whatever "powers" he might need to keep from getting caught, killed, or otherwise stopped. Need to cross a vast canyon? Boom, magic can do that! Need to stop a big dragon made out of rocks? Zip-a-dee-do-dah, magic! Dragon vanquished! And so on. And of course there is the standard plot device where the kid can't operate the magic at first, but by the end of the story he's so good, he could be another Harry Potter.

    The story takes place in a universe that looks just like a modern day city, but for no explained reason, all the characters are dwarfs, dragons and other mythical-like creatures. The reason they're living in suburban Metropolis, or somewhere like that, is that "magic" has gone out of the world. Well I suppose if you live in a big city, you might feel that way from time to time.

    In a plot sort of inspired by Jumanji combined with Weekend At Bernie's, two kids discover a magical way they can bring back their long-deceased dad, but only for one day. Then something goes horribly wrong, and only the bottom half of Dad materializes, and the rest of the movie is a mad dash to find the magic crystal that will bring the rest of him back before .... well, I don't know what happens if they fail. He dies again from not having a nose or mouth, I'd guess.

    During said mad dash, the kids are freaked out that they only have the bottom half of their Dad, so they compensate by building the top half of him out of a stuffed sweatshirt and a ball cap, so he flops around awkwardly through the movie, which I suppose is meant to add comedy but it gets old after about the first minute.

    The action scenes are well-made, and the animation and sound are the usual top notch Pixar work. There are a few scenes, most notably one involving a "bottomless pit," that would have been awesome in 3-D, if 3-D was still a thing. The voice cast does a good job with what they're given, but if they hadn't had Chris Pratt, this would have been a complete disaster. Even Julia Louis-Dreyfus' talents are wasted, and if SHE can't make a movie enjoyable, I don't know who can.

    The only time the movie actually takes hold is near the end. All the frantic chases and battles suddenly grind to a halt, and the story takes a much-needed twist when the hero kid makes a heart-breaking choice, which I won't reveal here. This is followed by the now-familiar sentimental Pixar ending, similar to what was done SO much better in Toy Story 4.

    So, for the movie's first hour and a half, one star out of five (a rating I'd never expected to give to a Pixar movie). The last three minutes: One star per minute, for a total of three stars.

    The folks at Pixar ought to watch the original Toy Story, or Finding Nemo, again and re-discover their roots. They're losing their direction.

  • #2
    Interestingly enough, and troubling. I have been seeing pop-ups on you tube videos (for the last two weeks) telling me that i can watch this now on VUDU.


    • #3
      We watched this movie this weekend, "live" from Disney+ in our screening room in "6-ft isolation mode". The quality isn't comparable to a good Blu-Ray or DCP, but still decent enough not to annoy the hell out of you. You'll see quite a few compression artifacts, despite the stream being in 4K. A perfect example how raw pixel numbers isn't everything.

      I think I liked the movie a bit more than Mike did, in overall, but I still agree with many of his conclusions. But I wouldn't say this makes the movie any worse than let's say Cars 2, Cars 3 or Monsters University. Actually, I'd rate it higher than those titles, simply because there is still some little Pixar spark left in there, although it only really ignites at the end of the movie.

      The reason why I never really cared about Harry Potter, like many other fantasy franchises, is indeed, because problems are too often solved with some kind of Dues Ex Machina, like some kind of magic spell. Unfortunately, many superhero movies of late are mostly the same, where big battles are essentially also being won or lost by "magic". I guess what made me keep some attention is the many little jokes built into the story, some of which work better than others.

      I could compare this movie a bit to the "Diet version" of the 2007 movie adaptation of The Mist, where arguably one of the best and most intense endings ever made, transforms an otherwise forgettable horror flick into something worth remembering.


      • #4
        I must say I really liked this movie. Its one that the whole family can watch and laugh and feel good at the end.