Critics Consensus

Onward Is Certified Fresh

Plus, The Way Back is a worthy Ben Affleck comeback story, and Extra Ordinary, Bacurau, The Wild Goose Lake, and Sorry We Missed You are all also Certified Fresh.

by | March 5, 2020 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got elf bros looking for half a dad (Onward, featuring the voices of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) and an alcoholic looking for redemption (The Way Back, starring Ben Affleck and Michaela Watkins). What are the critics saying?


Onward (2020) 88%

It’s no secret that Pixar has a pretty stellar track record, both critically and commercially, and if there’s any drawback to that kind of success, it’s that it sets high expectations for its future productions to meet. Thankfully, critics say the animation studio’s latest, Onward, is another winner, even if it doesn’t reach the upper echelons of Pixar’s library. MCU stars Tom Holland (Spider-Man) and Chris Pratt (Star-Lord) voice Ian and Barley Lightfoot, a pair of elf brothers living in a suburbanized fantasy world where magic has been rendered obsolete by technology. When Ian is gifted the means to resurrect his dead father for 24 hours on his 16th birthday, he inadvertently only summons the bottom half, so he and Barley set out on a road trip to rediscover the magic they’ll need to bring back the rest of their dad before time runs out. Critics say Onward probably won’t be considered a Pixar classic, but it’s still a cut above most of the studio’s competitors, and Holland and Pratt deliver commendably heartfelt performances as the film’s true themes begin to emerge. The film is partly inspired by director/co-writer Dan Scanlon’s own relationship with his brother when their father passed away, and the personal angle goes a long way towards communicating the story’s core messages. In other words, bring some tissues.


The Way Back (2020) 84%

Underdog sports stories have been a reliable staple of the movie industry for a long time, so much so that they’ve been molded and refined to fit into a fairly predictable formula. With that in mind, it usually takes something extra to make one stand out, and critics say this week’s The Way Back has that in an outstanding performance from Ben Affleck. Affleck stars as Jack Cunningham, a construction worker who was once an elite high school basketball player but now spends his days — and nights — binge-drinking. When he gets an unexpected call from his alma mater to coach their hoops team, he reluctantly takes them up on the offer and begins a slow healing process as he attempts to shepherd his kids to a few meaningful wins. Critics say what makes The Way Back effective is that it’s not merely an inspirational sports story, nor is it merely one about addiction, but a carefully crafted hybrid that doesn’t provide easy answers or overly sentimental triumphant moments. It’s also notable that, prior to filming the movie, Affleck himself endured some very public battles with addiction, and as a result, he brings a personal gravity to his role that leaps off the screen. Audiences will no doubt come to The Way Back with certain expectations, simply based on the fact that it’s a story about a troubled new coach learning to bond with his team, but if this doesn’t hit all of those familiar beats in a predictable way, it still offers a worthwhile character study that might surprise a few moviegoers with its depth.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • Extra Ordinary (2019) , starring Will Forte and Maeve Higgins in a supernatural romantic comedy about a woman who can talk to spirits and a rockstar with an evil plan, is Certified Fresh at 100%.
  • The Dark Red (2018) , a psychological thriller about a woman who may or may not be pursued by a cult for her rare abilities, is at 100%.
  • First Cow (2019)Kelly Reichardt’s drama about a cook and Chinese immigrant who team up to pilfer milk from a wealthy landowner’s cow during the early 19th century, is at 92%.
  • Nighthawk (2019) , about a group of Brazilian villagers who band together to fight off dangerous mercenaries who appear after a mysterious UFO-related event, is Certified Fresh at 89%.
  • The Wild Goose Lake (2019) , a Chinese crime thriller about a small-time gangster who hides out in a lakeside town after killing a cop and forms a bond with the prostitute whose help he’s enlisted, is Certified Fresh at 89%.
  • Swallow (2019) , about a newly pregnant housewife who develops a rare disorder that compels her to swallow inedible objects, is at 88%.
  • Sorry We Missed You (2019)Ken Loach’s drama about a family struggling to make ends meet as the father takes up a job as a delivery driver, is Certified Fresh at 87%.
  • The Booksellers (2019) , a documentary about the eccentric world of antique booksellers, is at 86%.
  • Escape From Pretoria (2020) , starring Daniel Radcliffe in a drama about two political prisoners in apartheid-era  South Africa who stage a daring prison escape, is at 77%.
  • Go Back to China (2019) , a comedy-drama about a spoiled young Chinese-American woman who is sent back to China by her father to work in the family toy factory and learn responsibility, is at 76%.
  • Seven Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss by Passing Through the Gateway Chosen by the Holy Storsh (2018) , a dark comedy about a young LA couple dealing with cult followers attempting to break into their new home in order to emulate their leader, who committed suicide in the bathtub, is at 69%.
  • Run This Town (2019) , a based-on-true-events drama about a journalist’s attempts to uncover the scandals surrounding Toronto mayor Rob Ford, is at 60%.
  • Hope Gap (2019) , starring Annette Bening and Bill Nighy in a drama about a woman coming to grips with the fact that her husband is leaving her for another woman, is at 57%.
  • The Burnt Orange Heresy (2019) , a thriller about an art critic who is hired to steal a masterpiece from a reclusive artist, is at 52%.
  • Only (2019) , a sci-fi-tinged drama about a young couple trying to stay safe in a world where all the women on the planet have been wiped out by a plague, is at 45%.

Thumbnail image by Disney/Pixar