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: 102.719%
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: In "Onward," teenage elf brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot (voices of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) get an unexpected opportunity... [More]
Directed By: Dan Scanlon

Tag Cloud

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