“Onward” (Rated B)
Cast: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer
Genre: Animated Fantasy/Adventure
No, not “you know what”! (Although that is indeed highly contagious!)
Rather, it’s the themes that seem to insinuate themselves in most Pixar films. And like most things that are contagious, the continuing spread of these features isn’t a good thing. In fact, this repetitiveness is greatly diminishing the once-magical Pixar experience.
Familial connections seem to be at the core of Pixar pictures. Often, storylines revolve around a child or teenager in challenging relationships with a parent, or simply grappling with ways to find their place in the world, or conversely, parents struggling to reach an aloof child. Think “Inside Out” or “Brave” or “Coco”.
A case could be made that there are similar takes on the themes with masterpieces like “Up”, “Toy Story” and “WALL-E” and even “Ratatouille”, even with their slightly different demographics and genetic makeup (i.e. toys, robots and rats in the latter three, respectively) of some of the main characters in those flicks.
With the new film “Onward”, we are dealing with elves, as we are transported to a strange and magical world that’s very similar to Earth, but inhabited by mythical creatures.
Two teenage elf brothers, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt), go on a journey to discover if there is still a little magic left out there in order to spend one last day with their father, who died when they were too young to remember him.
Like most Pixar productions, “Onward” is a very sweet and nice film, exceedingly cute and amusing at times. It’s a great choice for pre-teens, and wonderful family entertainment, especially for any young person dealing with loss. The voice cast, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer, does a great job. And as usual, the animation is stellar.
If you’ve never seen a Pixar film, “Onward” may be the greatest animated picture ever!
However, for the rest of us – those blessed to have experienced the greats like the “Toy Story” franchise, “Up”, “WALL-E”, “Finding Nemo”, “Monsters, Inc.”, “The Incredibles” – the repetitive nature of the studio’s storytelling is becoming a major issue.
There is really nothing that sets “Onward” apart from anything in the Pixar stable. The similarities are far more prominent than the differences. And it definitely feels like you’ve seen this movie before. Quite a few times! It’s like an episode of “Murder, She Wrote” or “Law and Order”, with slightly different cases, but in the same format.
Or to put a more slightly less negative spin on it, “Onward” is to Pixar Movies what Hallmark Movies are to Christmas: different characters and settings but the same old story. You can get the gist of it all just by reading the synopsis. Needless to say, this is a worrisome situation.
Somebody needs to find a way to contain this problem, stat!
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.