Before the coronavirus pandemic took hold of our society and shut down movie theaters around the globe, “Onward” was one of the last feature films to be released. Pixar’s 22nd feature film was able to bring in a respectable $104 million in worldwide ticket sales ($61 domestically) before COVID-19 deemed going out to movie theaters a thing of the past. As of Friday, April 3, Disney Plus subscribers in the US and Canada can stream “Onward” for free — and trust me when I say it’s the perfect family film for these trying times.
This mythical story about the descendants of medieval beings centers around elf brothers Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt). The boys don’t have much in common, as Ian suffers from a lack of self-confidence and Barley is obsessed with mythical quests. When their mother Laurel Lightfoot (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) finds a package from the boys’ deceased father, it sends them on a wild journey to try to bring him back to life. Along the way they encounter with all kinds of eye-popping creatures, including a centaur (Mel Rodriguez), a manticore (Octavia Spencer), a cycolps (Lena Waithe), a faun (Ali Wong) and a pixie (Grey Griffin).
A recurring quote in “Onward” is “I hope there’s a little magic left in you,” attributed to the boys’ late father. Sadly, almost all of the characters in this fictional land have forgotten about their magical roots, which drives much of the conflict between skeptic Ian and believer Barley. The brothers soon bond together as they explore new aspects of their world (and themselves). The touching tale will surely fill youngsters with hope, particularly as real life events continue wreaking havoc on day-to-day life.
Two weeks after its abbreviated theatrical run, “Onward” was re-released via pay-per-view services for $20. But now, in one of the quickest turn-arounds in recent memory, it’s available for free via the Disney+ streaming service. “While we’re looking forward to audiences enjoying our films on the big screen again soon, given the current circumstances, we are pleased to release this fun, adventurous film to digital platforms early for audiences to enjoy from the comfort of their homes,” said director Dan Scanlon and producer Kori Rae.
Film critics were pleased with Pixar’s latest offering, with Metacritic giving it a 61 score and Rotten Tomatoes calling it 87% fresh. Will “Onward” go on to become Pixar’s 11th film to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature? The animation company prevailed earlier this year with “Toy Story 4,” joining the list of former winners “Coco” (2017), “Inside Out” (2015), “Brave” (2012), “Toy Story 3” (2010), “Up” (2009), “Wall-E” (2008), “Ratatouille” (2007), “The Incredibles” (2004) and “Finding Nemo” (2003)
In his list of Pixar rankings, Gold Derby writer Tom O’Brien had this to say about “Onward”: “Modern American city is entirely populated by mythological medieval creatures, including the elfin Lightfoot family — widow Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), her overbearing older son Barley (Chris Pratt) and his timid brother Ian (Tom Holland). Ian’s late father left him a birthday gift of a magical staff and a spell that could bring his dad back for 24 hours. But the spell goes wrong and only their father’s very active legs materialize, and the boys have to find a way to bring back his top. Minor Pixar, but very entertaining.”