‘Onward’ reviews: Critics praise the ‘colorful and charming’ Pixar film, but how does it compare to the studio’s best?

Pixar continued its Oscars dominance by winning Best Animated Feature for the 10th time for “Toy Story 4,” and 2020 could continue the studio’s reign as the company has two original films — not sequels or spinoffs — on tap. “Soul” is due in June, but “Onward” opened on March 6. So what are critics saying about the fantasy film?

As of this writing “Onward” has a MetaCritic score of 61 based on 49 reviews counted thus far: 29 positive, 18 somewhat mixed, only 2 classified as outright negative. Over on Rotten Tomatoes, which rates reviews as simply positive or negative and not on the sliding scale that MetaCritic uses, the film currently has a freshness rating of 86% based on 178 reviews, only 25 of which are counted as negative. The RT critics’ consensus says, “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.”

The Rotten Tomatoes score indicates that the overwhelming majority of critics like the film, while the 25-point-lower MetaCritic rating points to the fact that not many of those critics passionately love it. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt star in the film, lending their voices to a pair of elf brothers who set out on a quest. It “doesn’t do anything so lofty” as Pixar’s more ambitious previous offerings, and it “feels safe, simple and soft-edged,” but it’s “colorful and charming” with “warmth,” “whip-smart humor” and “an impeccable voice cast.”

Over the last quarter century Pixar has routinely produced among the most critically and commercially successful films of any given year, from “Toy Story” to “WALL-E” to “Coco.” So sometimes they can be victims of their own reputations to the point where a positively reviewed film like “Onward” can seem like a relative disappointment. But its critical ratings are similar the numbers for their 2012 film “Brave,” which scored slightly higher on MetaCritic and slightly lower on Rotten Tomatoes and went on to win Best Animated Feature from the academy. So one can never count out Pixar in an awards conversation, especially when they have two chances at the title this year.

Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more here with your fellow film fans.

Ben Travis (Empire): “‘Onward,’ the animation studio’s 22nd film, doesn’t do anything so lofty as pay homage to silent cinema, or forever change the way we think about our emotions. It’s not even as tear-jerking as ‘Toy Story 3’ or ‘Coco.’ But in every way, it’s pure, perfect Pixar — a film with such warmth, whip-smart humour and creative energy that it’s a sheer joy to spend a few hours in its presence.”

Tasha Robinson (Polygon): “It’s colorful and charming, and it’s certainly unique in its story specifics. But it also feels safe, simple, and soft-edged compared to Pixar’s wilder swings for the outfield … Leaving aside the longing for a form of emotional engagement equal to that of Pixar’s most powerful movies, ‘Onward’ still plays like a solidly entertaining yarn.”

Kristy Puchko (IGN): “An impeccable voice cast brings these legendary creatures to vibrant life. As he has for the MCU’s ‘Spider-Man,’ Holland delivers an aw-shucks sweetness as Ian, playing flustered and fascinated with equal gusto. Pratt brings his signature blend of goofiness, giddiness, and a bro-y bravado to Barley … Still, there seems to be something missing from ‘Onward’ … When compared to the best of Pixar, its charms ring a bit hollow.”

Molly Freeman (Screen Rant): “‘Onward’ is a good, but not great Pixar movie, with a heartfelt, if emotionally manipulative storyline, and plenty of film magic to propel it forward … But though the story may not be very strong, ‘Onward’ does feature well-developed characters and a wholly magical world that turns our own on its head.”

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