I just want to start by saying that Pixar needs to step up their marketing game. This movie snuck up on me; I knew that it lurked out there somewhere but I didn’t know it was imminent. Further, the marketing doesn’t do the movie justice. It’s so much more than the trailers suggest.
Look guys, I’m just going to start with the best endorsement I can give for this movie. I cried. During it and after it. It overwhelmed me with soul-crushing feels. Though, I do have some particularly personal trauma related to the topic of this movie, so it triggered me in a way that it probably won’t everyone. But even if you don’t cry, you’ll feel real, honest emotions.
The plot appears, at first, to be just a standard adventure, a clever Pixar riff on the classic fantasy tropes. There’s a quest, dragons, manticores, elves, magic. All the stuff you’d expect to find. In this case, the story follows two brothers on a quest to reconnect with their deceased father. You can see where feels might come in, though they hit me in a way that I didn’t expect for reasons that I didn’t foresee. Your mileage may vary.
Just how the plot ends up being nothing but standard, the characters are the same. There’s a bit of a bait and switch where the “main” character may not be who you think it is. I caught on about halfway through the film when it finally hit me who the movie was really about. This slow reveal is so intricately done that it’s absolutely stunning. A true work of heartfelt writing and careful unfolding of plot. I heart the writers of this script so much for pulling off what they did.
I should also mention the voice acting, which of course is amazing, but the movie would succeed with or without an all-star cast. Though almost all of the actors deserve credit for a job well done, Chris Pratt especially gets full marks. It may well be his best work to date, even if it is only his voice. So much emotion. So much clarity in purpose. So much subtlety. He really nailed it.
And if you don’t like feels or intricately written scripts, then you’ll still be happy with the humor. There’s a lot of it, especially if you’re intimately familiar with the hardcore fantasy genre. If you’re the type of person who likes Lord of the Rings or Dungeons & Dragons, you’re going to find more inside jokes than you can shake a wand at here. Some of them are surface level enough for anyone to appreciate, but others are pretty deep cuts. Further, if you pay enough attention to the background, you’ll see more than enough sight gags to make you giggle.
It’s clear by now that I love this movie. It’s amazing. I daresay it may even supplant The Incredibles as my favorite Pixar movie. Part of that is because of how personal it is to me, sure, but I still think this is an amazing movie by anyone’s standards. As of now, it has 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. That means 14% of critics have no soul. I mourn for those poor people.
Onward is our first S-Tier movie of the year folks. Will it have company? I don’t know, but it sure has set a very high bar. It might’ve snuck up on us, but don’t sleep on it. Go see it. You’ll be glad you did.
Should you watch it? Yes. No qualifiers. Just go see it.
Should you take your kids? Of course, though realize it might be triggering for children who have lost a father (in any way). To be fair, it’s also triggering to 41 year old males.
What you should watch first: Nothing required. General knowledge of fantasy tropes is a plus.