News

Onward First Reviews: A Funny, Soulful Adventure That Feels a Little Familiar

Critics say Pixar's latest doesn't break any new narrative or visual ground, but it's a solid, deeply personal film that should resonate with families.

by | February 21, 2020 | Comments

After a decade of mostly producing sequels, Pixar begins a new era of original animated features with the release of Onward. Featuring the voices of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, the fantasy adventure is co-written and directed by studio vet Dan Scanlon, who previously helmed Monsters University. While still technically garnering Fresh marks from critics, Onward is being labeled a somewhat lesser Pixar effort in the first crop of reviews. Whether it’s too sub-par for recommendation depends on the writer and may depend on your appreciation for its sentiments as well.

Here’s what critics are saying about Pixar’s Onward:


How does it measure against other Pixar movies?

Onward may have taken my number one Pixar spot, and I’m not ashamed to say it.
– Rachel Leishman, The Mary Sue

Onward isn’t Pixar’s best film, but it’s one of its most personal.
– Kristen Acuna, Insider

Pixar’s latest film, Onward, lives up to its predecessors… albeit slightly underwhelming.
– Germain Lussier, io9

The majority of Pixar’s films are special for one reason or another. Which makes the generic bro humor and familiar Dungeons & Dragons role-play vibe of Onward a let-down.
– David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

This is what a disappointing Pixar film is: a perfectly fine one.
– Josh Spiegel, Slashfilm

This may not be Pixar’s worst movie… but it sure feels like the weakest.
– Roger Moore, Movie Nation


Lesser Pixar is still pretty goood, though, right?

Pixar, in its very bravura, has more than earned the right to put out a movie like this one — an unabashed piece of product, a kind of Pixar place-holder made with a tiny dash of soul.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

While Onward may not be the strongest Pixar movie, it still delivers on everything fans have come to expect from an animated film produced by the studio.
Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

Ian, Barley, and their dad’s legs’ story is a worthy addition to the studio’s impeccable catalogue. I went in with doubt. Now, I can’t wait to see it again.
Alison Foreman, Mashable

While its emotion and structure are certainly uneven, there’s not anything truly bad to say about it.
Germain Lussier, io9


Disney/Pixar

(Photo by Disney/Pixar)

Is it original enough?

Some may find that Pixar is retracing its steps a bit… [but] Onward rarely feels formulaic because its characters and setting are so specific.
Matt Goldberg, Collider

This particular once-upon-a-time scene setter feels curiously, even knowingly derivative.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

The emotion in Onward is earned, and the situational setup seems unique. It’s all… fine, but also overly familiar.
Josh Spiegel, Slashfilm


How is the story?

Scanlon, Jason Headley and Keith Bunin’s screenplay functions at its best when it’s leaning into sincerity over silliness.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Save for a few by-the-book action sequences and corny gags, Onward maintains its clever balance of formula all the way through an emotional climax.
Eric Kohn, IndieWire

While Onward is a distinctly colorful animated film, its story feels like a variant on a low-key dramedy you might find at Sundance.
Josh Spiegel, Slashfilm

This is a movie about two kids resurrecting their dead dad’s crotch and it’s just the WEIRDEST thing.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx


Disney/Pixar

(Photo by Disney/Pixar)

Are there memorable characters?

In addition to the filmmakers’ forward-thinking approach to dealing with grief, they approach traditional character archetypes with just as much innovation.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

There’s a lesbian character in Onward… but the most revolutionary thing that Pixar has done in advance of the movie’s release is not tell anyone about it.
Sam Adams, Slate

This is a pretty uninspired bunch… characters that often feel like plot padding.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter


How are the performances?

Holland and Pratt, both MCU stalwarts, show great vocal chemistry as two brothers bonded together through family and tragedy.
Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews

Holland and Pratt have a winning rapport, in part because they could be starring in a parallel-universe Avengers spinoff with Spider-Man and Star-Lord.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

[Pratt’s] vocal performance is the film’s highlight, as he returns to his Andy Dwyer days.
Josh Spiegel, Slashfilm

Pratt and Holland make for a loving vocal duo, oozing with audible affection, but voice acting veteran Mel Rodriguez steals the show as Laurel’s cop boyfriend Colt Bronco.
Alison Foreman, Mashable


Is Onward funny?

Combining stellar visual comedy with memorable dialogue, Onward makes the most of every joke and bit on its path.
Alison Foreman, Mashable

Onward is 100 percent Weekend at Bernie’s for kids… that the filmmakers did this is funnier than most of the actual jokes in the movie.
Joshua Rivera, The Verge

Onward wisely leans more on humor than drama to get its message across.
David Sims, The Atlantic

Onward may be hilarious, but it is so much more than that.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

The situational humor in Onward is fleeting.
Josh Spiegel, Slashfilm

There isn’t a laugh in it.
Roger Moore, Movie Nation

Pixar being Pixar, will have you laughing constantly until the climax reduces you to a puddle of tears.
Matt Goldberg, Collider


Disney/Pixar

(Photo by Disney/Pixar)

So it’s another Pixar tearjerker?

Onward isn’t Pixar’s biggest tearjerker, but expect to find yourself tearing up a bit throughout.
Kristen Acuna, Insider

Get ready to ugly cry – especially those who’ve lost someone near and dear.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

What makes this one pretty good, and sometimes inspired, is that… all those emotions seem to spring naturally from the story’s intricate roots.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

As I’m getting ready to write about the heart of this movie, I’m crying again.
Rachel Leishman, The Mary Sue


How does it look?

Onward is a visual treat throughout. It almost goes without saying now with Pixar that everything looks gorgeous, but the fantastical world they’ve built is vibrant and packed with detail.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

The animation’s good, lovely but not dazzling.
Roger Moore, Movie Nation

From a visual standpoint, the movie offers few surprises… but script and character generally overwhelm the need for technological innovation.
Eric Kohn, IndieWire

The backgrounds around Barley and Ian are so meticulously designed, with even photorealistic dust particles floating around the house, that it jars with the more traditionally cartoonish design of its fanciful characters.
David Crow, Den of Geek

Mostly, the look is disappointingly pedestrian.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter


Disney/Pixar

(Photo by Disney/Pixar)

Who is Onward best suited for?

Far more a film for adults than Pixar’s ever done.
Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews

If you like classic, high fantasy settings inspired by stuff like Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, you’ll love what Scanlon and his team have done here with Onward.
Matt Goldberg, Collider

The best thing that Scanlon’s film does is that it gives audiences of all ages (but especially young kids) the tools to work through sorrow in a safe space.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction


Onward is in theaters on March 6.

#1

Onward (2020)
88%

#1
Adjusted Score: 113035%
Critics Consensus: It may suffer in comparison to Pixar's classics, but Onward makes effective use of the studio's formula -- and stands on its own merits as a funny, heartwarming, dazzlingly animated adventure.
Synopsis: Teenage elf brothers Ian and Barley embark on a magical quest to spend one more day with their late father.... [More]
Directed By: Dan Scanlon

Tag Cloud

HFPA ViacomCBS slashers Polls and Games TCA comic book movie Nickelodeon Baby Yoda anime golden globes 1990s best art house vs. black adaptation stoner Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Ellie Kemper comedies Disney+ Disney Plus legend Indigenous Summer Horror Best Director Paramount Pictures Alien action-comedy NBC harry potter Holidays mob animated theme song Box Office Women's History Month cinemax Mary Tyler Moore cooking award winner The Purge Focus Features The Walt Disney Company marvel cinematic universe spain new york Best Actor Schedule Comic Book Cartoon Network FXX serial killer VICE MTV Fox News Chernobyl Extras Rom-Com aliens zero dark thirty Super Bowl football spy thriller posters Hallmark Christmas movies young adult rt labs Adult Swim 90s Funimation fresh batman MSNBC sitcom politics Pop TV Ovation jamie lee curtis stand-up comedy facebook Sony Pictures Lucasfilm Hulu DGA rotten movies we love natural history hispanic Pixar Mystery National Geographic Chilling Adventures of Sabrina independent new zealand game of thrones Reality Competition E! TruTV biography child's play Oscar Crackle teaser cats binge USA Network strong female leads USA NYCC popular comiccon feel good Pirates Rocketman Acorn TV Universal Pictures Red Carpet 2019 2021 Sneak Peek rt archives BAFTA Awards Tour Spring TV Apple TV Plus japanese psychological thriller ITV Logo spider-man Exclusive Video TCA Awards Food Network AMC 4/20 DC streaming service DC Comics Vudu Lifetime Christmas movies Wes Anderson BBC richard e. Grant leaderboard Bravo Tarantino casting Crunchyroll talk show Mary Poppins Returns ID Drama Quiz video on demand die hard asian-american Binge Guide video zombies sports Countdown superhero zombie Apple Reality Amazon Prime Watching Series Anna Paquin name the review Country Nat Geo dexter dreamworks San Diego Comic-Con Mindy Kaling mcc sag awards documentary television golden globe awards social media twilight prank Endgame deadpool crime singing competition quibi SundanceTV thriller spanish worst movies foreign El Rey Netflix Christmas movies Dark Horse Comics comic books Captain marvel dc screen actors guild ABC Walt Disney Pictures universal monsters political drama Sundance Superheroes IMDb TV DC Universe Creative Arts Emmys historical drama discovery Pet Sematary dark romance TV Land know your critic Showtime cars streamig WGN book adaptation Warner Bros. cartoon new star wars movies Universal Pacific Islander hidden camera Music Trailer PaleyFest History joker SXSW obituary cancelled YouTube romantic comedy comic book movies adenture trailers ratings Marathons CBS Star Wars chucky movies Tokyo Olympics venice crossover kids Toys RT History Legendary A&E Election superman olympics streaming Awards YouTube Red adventure cops Spectrum Originals interviews breaking bad YouTube Premium Paramount Black History Month ghosts nbcuniversal Amazon AMC Plus lord of the rings Musicals tv talk GLAAD dceu biopic Stephen King mockumentary Syfy blaxploitation travel Comedy Central debate PBS boxoffice hollywood Winners reboot Paramount Network Peacock Instagram Live latino crime thriller A24 ABC Signature summer TV Turner series Disney streaming service President directors wonder woman HBO Max robots ESPN Tomatazos TLC stop motion Certified Fresh game show free movies comics Interview Disney Plus werewolf Fall TV saw remakes classics 99% live action HBO Go criterion 72 Emmy Awards Martial Arts Hallmark rt labs critics edition First Reviews CW Seed Native all-time Song of Ice and Fire Calendar 20th Century Fox canceled supernatural gangster BBC America Video Games Amazon Prime Video 73rd Emmy Awards kong Prime Video Ghostbusters Pop vampires science fiction halloween tv Biopics See It Skip It Valentine's Day Hollywood Foreign Press Association First Look Amazon Studios sopranos Apple TV+ renewed TV shows 24 frames summer TV preview jurassic park FX on Hulu spider-verse Classic Film Mudbound Rocky toy story IFC slasher Marvel Television American Society of Cinematographers SDCC Heroines marvel comics Discovery Channel festival docuseries reviews docudrama Arrowverse Lifetime Columbia Pictures medical drama movie telelvision king arthur The Arrangement japan scene in color royal family franchise christmas movies 45 Fox Searchlight canceled TV shows pirates of the caribbean king kong war toronto south america HBO halloween blockbuster black comedy scary movies screenings streaming movies police drama summer preview genre miniseries mission: impossible french Film Festival Character Guide Epix Podcast TV movies diversity crime drama Family YA scorecard trophy news Shudder PlayStation sequels australia Television Academy dramedy elevated horror nfl comic Pride Month basketball Netflix Television Critics Association The Witch scene in color film series what to watch Sundance Now mutant Hear Us Out children's TV Opinion IFC Films Holiday true crime critics Academy Awards finale Disney cancelled TV series hist Paramount Plus 2016 target scene in color psycho sequel international a nightmare on elm street critic resources FOX versus italian period drama Best and Worst Shondaland emmy awards OneApp cancelled television Tumblr films TNT Superheroe Teen revenge Nominations Star Wars Celebration justice league boxing 2017 CBS All Access Comic-Con@Home 2021 Cosplay RT21 TBS Emmys festivals documentaries Marvel Studios based on movie women transformers Christmas Sundance TV composers indiana jones Sci-Fi Black Mirror TCA Winter 2020 worst 2020 LGBTQ Set visit 2015 Lionsgate VH1 TV Tubi spanish language razzies 71st Emmy Awards technology kaiju Freeform cults spinoff Trivia 94th Oscars Musical disaster obi wan scary Turner Classic Movies parents heist movie laika NBA 79th Golden Globes Awards Tags: Comedy godzilla live event Western Rock Cannes The CW anthology Travel Channel blockbusters Avengers MCU Year in Review Masterpiece WarnerMedia ABC Family 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Fantasy nature DirecTV rotten Kids & Family CNN aapi Film GoT BBC One 93rd Oscars hispanic heritage month suspense BET cancelled TV shows Action Emmy Nominations TV renewals E3 fast and furious Photos SXSW 2022 Infographic Neflix Best Picture Spike Animation james bond Starz concert OWN 007 indie dragons GIFs Disney Channel CMT VOD unscripted Star Trek The Walking Dead Best Actress dogs New York Comic Con scene in color series Fargo Image Comics MGM LGBT book TCM Esquire Brie Larson Sony Comics on TV broadcast X-Men satire monster movies Thanksgiving Marvel Britbox doctor who green book South by Southwest Film Festival 2018 witnail archives BET Awards Grammys Geeked Week Comedy Trophy Talk The Academy 21st Century Fox FX Oscars space rom-coms high school TV One Elton John Mary poppins Premiere Dates Winter TV TCA 2017 APB Writers Guild of America target TIFF Broadway