Onward (2020) Review

Onward (2020)

Directed by Dan Scanlon

Starring: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer

Production company Walt Disney Pictures & Pixar Animation Studios

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there.

My Opinion:

Ahh – My beloved Pixar. Pixar is up there with Studio Ghibli & Akira Kurosawa films for me in that they’re responsible for making so many movies I love & their very best are cinematic perfection (in my opinion, obviously). Pixar could do no wrong until the Cars movies came along & they’ve unfortunately had a few missteps since then. The Disney “sequelitis” thing has hurt the Pixar brand slightly, although Pixar’s weakest films are still far better than the majority of output from other animation studios. Onward is good but it’s certainly not one of Pixar’s best. However, I appreciate getting an original story instead of yet another sequel (Toy Story 4 was very disappointing after the third one had such a perfect ending & made for a fantastic trilogy).

Okay – not that anyone cares but you know I love to make lists & rank things. So here’s My Pixar Movie Ranking (Wow – I never watched Cars 3? I’m clearly not into those…). Figured this was worth doing to see where I’d place Onward:

21. Cars 2
20. The Good Dinosaur
19. Cars
18. Incredibles 2
17. Finding Dory
16. Monsters University
15. Toy Story 4
14. Onward
13. Coco
12. Ratatouille
11. A Bug’s Life
10. Brave
9. The Incredibles
8. Up
7. Toy Story 2
6. Toy Story 3
5. Inside Out
4. Finding Nemo
3. Monsters, Inc.
2. Toy Story
1. WALL-E

So, Onward is unfortunately one of the weakest “original” stories but still better than all the sequels (other than Toy Story 2 & 3, which are great). To be honest, I enjoyed it a bit more than Coco. Coco is lovely to look at & a better “film” but I liked the Onward main characters & the relationship between the two brothers.

I think maybe the most difficult thing with Onward was trying to NOT keep getting Weekend At Bernie’s vibes from it as they dragged their dad around on their journey. As usual, Pixar know how to pull on those heartstrings & there are some lovely moments in this film that are kind of ruined by that stupid Andrew McCarthy movie popping up in my head. Damn you, Andrew McCarthy! (I’m just extra mad at him as I also re-watched Pretty In Pink over the weekend. I will always be #TeamDuckie!).

I’ll try to keep this short as I’m not really planning on doing many full movie reviews this year but, as it’s Pixar, I had to write a little about it. Having just watched Onward, I’m not yet sure how I feel about it. Maybe it will grow on me as some Pixar movies did after a re-watch but I don’t think that will happen in this case & I can’t see ever loving it as I do those at the top of my Pixar list. The overall story is fine but a little weak, especially when compared to just how brilliantly inventive Pixar ideas often are (I’m still amazed by Monsters, Inc. Genius idea). The minor characters in Onward are also disappointing, which is a shame as Pixar often have such strong characters in even the smallest roles. Look at something like Finding Nemo – I love each & every damn sea creature in that thing! They all have such unique personalities. No one stands out in Onward other than the two brothers.

However, I think Onward handles the topic of losing someone well. It manages to make you care about the brothers & their dad, at least, and to yet again simultaneously warm & break your damn heart at the end in usual Pixar fashion. I won’t give too much away but, ultimately, this story is about the two brothers and they’re what make this movie work. They help make up for there being no memorable other characters (maybe that’s the reason why, so the focus is on the brothers & them wanting to see their dad again). I saw people freaking out on Twitter when someone said Onward is Frozen for boys (with people pointing out that both boys & girls can like both of these movies). Chill out, people. The comparison is accurate in that Frozen is about sisters & Onward is about brothers. They’re both about family & love & loss. They’re good films that everyone should be able to relate to in some way. I do wish Onward was a better film overall as its heart is in the right place. Well, you never know – maybe it will grow on me a bit.

My Rating: 7/10

Monsters University (2013) Review

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Monsters University

Directed by Dan Scanlon

Starring Voice Actors:
Billy Crystal
John Goodman
Steve Buscemi
Helen Mirren
Alfred Molina

Music by Randy Newman

Studio:
Walt Disney Pictures
Pixar Animation Studios

Running time: 103 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

This prequel to Monsters Inc shows us how best friends Mike & Sulley first met while at Monsters University. And how they weren’t exactly best friends at first…

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My Opinion:

Oh Pixar… I love you so much. You’ve brought me so much happiness over the years, which is pretty amazing considering that I was already an adult when Toy Story came out. I won’t go on about Pixar too much – I’ll get on with the Monsters University review. Just letting you know I’m a HUGE Pixar fan.

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Does Monsters University live up to Monsters Inc? No, of course not. But I doubt anyone expected it to – that would be a pretty impossible task as the first one is absolutely brilliant. One of the best things about the first one is the relationship between Sulley and the adorable Boo. Obviously, you don’t get that here so I knew from the start that it was going to be missing a big part of what helped to make these characters (especially Sulley) so endearing in the first place. I was also a bit worried as the trailers were making it look more and more like some sort of All-American Animal House kind of college comedy film. And it is. But it’s still fun and it was great seeing two of my favorite characters together again.

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As far as Pixar sequels (er, prequels) go, Monsters University is unfortunately not as good as Toy Story 2 & 3 were. I felt those really stood on their own as good films – the third one actually managed to be almost as good as the first while the second one was very funny. I was hoping that, where Monsters University wouldn’t have another “Boo” relationship, it would at least be really funny to make up for it. And it IS funny (unlike most inferior kids films from other studios, such as Dreamworks). But it had way fewer laughs than I was expecting – Monsters Inc is much more funny overall. I think a big part of the reason is that Mike Wazowski, one of my favorite movie characters EVER, is far more serious in Monsters University as he works very hard to achieve his dream of becoming the best scarer at Monsters University and to work at Monsters Inc. Okay – I realize he’s very serious in the original as well but all the funny stuff at his expense just worked much better in that one. Also, Sulley isn’t the loveable big blue furball that he is in the first one. As I said, this is thanks to the fact that we don’t have Boo there to help make his character that way. But also, and I think this is pretty common knowledge by now, he starts out a little “less than likeable” in Monsters University. But we all know that this prequel is about watching HOW the friendship develops between these two very different monsters and that was fun to watch. I still adore these two guys!

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Summary:

As to be expected, it lacks a lot of the heart of Monsters Inc but is also unfortunately lacking in the number of laughs we get from that one. It’s a bit too “frat humor” at times, which kids and most people outside of America won’t relate to. And the straight-forward college comedy/underdog storyline just can’t compare to the totally “out there” concept of Monsters Inc, which I feel sometimes doesn’t get the credit it deserves for how truly original it is.

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I hate that I’m making Monsters University sound bad, though, as it certainly isn’t – it’s just very hard to NOT compare it to the Monsters Inc movie I so adore. It does drag a bit in the middle but the beginning and, luckily, the ending DO make up for it and capture some of the magic (and some of the “heart” I keep mentioning) of the original. I obviously won’t give away the ending but I’m happy to report that I found it a satisfying conclusion (or “beginning” if you want to look at it that way) for Mike & Sulley. And as my hubby pointed out, it sends a good message to kids – which is good after a bit too much “college humor” that probably went over their heads. As for the beginning: I loved it. Probably my favorite part of the whole movie. But Mike Wazowski has always been my favorite… For lovers of Mike, you’ll be happy to know that Monsters University is much more the story of Mike whereas Monsters Inc is more Sulley’s story. And Mike as a little kid is the cutest thing I’ve seen in a very long time. 🙂

My Rating: 7.5/10

(FYI – My Monsters Inc rating is probably 9.5/10)

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Scene After The Credits?: Yes, Monsters University does have an extra little fun scene at the very end of the credits. Worth watching for completionists. Like me.

Characters From Monsters Inc?: Yes, we get to see some characters from Monsters Inc. I won’t say who so it can be a surprise. I feel bad at not mentioning Randall – it was fun seeing him again as well. Watch for the poster above his bed – You’ll recognize it if you know Monsters Inc well.

How does Monsters University compare to Despicable Me 2?: I was very much looking forward to both of these as I love the originals so much. My fear was that Despicable Me 2 was looking like it was going to be much better than Monsters University. Well, I do think Despicable Me 2 did manage to live up to its original a bit more than Monsters University did. I thoroughly enjoyed both but almost hate to say that I enjoyed Despicable Me 2 (slightly!) more. My review is HERE if you’re bothered.