I’ve never been disappointed by a fun and enjoyable movie like this before, but the entire time I was watching “Onward,” it felt like Pixar was holding back on me. We didn’t really get to see much of the world or the people/creatures that populate it, and I can’t help but compare it to Disney’s “Zootopia,” where the world felt alive and fully fleshed-out.
Parts of “Onward” felt like they were missing, how do all of these people live together in society? Why do the centaurs and the trolls use the same vehicles as the pixies? These are the types of questions that “Zootopia”’s creators thought to answer, with things like the different biomes and doors and towns of all shapes and sizes.
Meanwhile, “Onward”’s creators seem to have stuck magical creatures straight into our modern world without giving a ton of thought to how it might be different than ours. It almost felt as if Pixar intentionally tried to leave room for a sequel.
That’s not to say that the movie isn’t without charm though. The movie’s main plot, which focuses on the relationship between brothers Ian and Barley, voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, is full of Pixar’s trademark heartwarming material. The studio does a phenomenal job of telling the story of a siblings’ bond as they desperately quest to see their father again one last time.
Perhaps the most magical thing about this Pixar movie is the way it got me to feel an emotional attachment to a beat-up old van named Guinevere. The movie’s charm came out in the moments when Pixar stopped trying so hard and truly just let their creation breathe.
I also feel the need to address the openly lesbian cop that Pixar was so proud to announce, whose character turned out to be so irrelevant in the film that I actually had to turn to google to find out her name was Officer Spector. Spector, voiced by Lena Waithe, is such a small role that the only scene she’s in can easily be cut out for international markets, a move that seems to be becoming typical of the film industry these days. We saw the same thing with Billie Lourd’s kiss in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
Newsflash to Hollywood: a brief LGBTQ+ moment with a token character isn’t representation. Real representation wouldn’t be removable. It’d be an integral part of a main character’s identity. Instead, we’re stuck with a forgettable cop telling us that “it gets better.” But Disney and Pixar aren’t interested in getting better representation and frankly, that isn’t enough.
Looking at the movie’s main storyline alone, it’s a very fun experience that does a great job of capturing the magic of both a D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) campaign and a sibling bond. The problem is, watching it, it’s so obvious that this movie could be so much more in so many ways. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s clear that “Onward” just isn’t as good as it could be.