(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Onward)
Doug (vo): It's the little, big movie that could...kind of...eventually. Pixar's Onward was not exactly a big hit at the box office, and some say it's the coronavirus, but...nah, it started to tank even before theaters were closed down. So they quickly released it on Disney+, and a lot of people who saw it at their homes really enjoyed it. Some even said it was great. Uh...I can't go that far, but I think there are great moments in it. In fact, this is one of the rare movies that starts off, in my opinion, kind of bad, and gets better and better as the film continues, and actually turns out a pretty good product.
Doug (vo): The story centers around a fantasy world, though I use that term very loosely, as this is a world where fantasy characters exist, like griffins and elves and fairies and such. But unlike most fantasy worlds where magic rules all, here, technology rules all and they kind of forget about magic, and, yeah, I really like this idea, I think that's very clever. I feel like I've seen it done well in shows like Ugly New York... (The poster for Ugly Americans is shown, with a caption that says "I meant Americans") ...but then I've also seen it done bad in movies like Bright. This, at least at the beginning, starts off more on the bright side. Ha-ha! See what I did there? Two elves named Ian and Barley, played by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, try their best to live in a world where their father has died. Imagine, a Disney film with a dead parent. Their mother, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, tries her best to raise them, but she knows, deep down, they really do miss their dad. Well, it turns out Barley is really into this whole magic and sorcery thing...in fact, there's even a popular game around it. And, no, it's not called Magic. What a tie-in that would be! (An image of Magic: The Gathering is shown) ...and he thinks he discovers a way to bring his father back. Unsure but hopeful, Ian agrees to join him and they use this magic scepter to try and conjure him back to life. But the spell only works halfway and all they get is...his legs. Yeah, he can't talk or write or anything like that, they're just stuck with a pair of legs. So naturally, they have to go on a journey to get the rest of their father back, by a short amount of time, of course, and they come across a bunch of colorful characters...of course, because that's what these movies do.
Doug (vo): And at first, that's the vibe I got out of this movie. This is one of those movies that just kind of does what these kind of movies do. You see the big-eyed innocent, who's a bit of a geek, but still has a good heart, you see the mother, who's trying to balance a million things, you have kind of the rocking brother, who's kind of a lunkhead, but also has a good heart, and, look, the dragon's a dog! (Mocking giggles) What? We haven't seen that in...well, yeah, we've seen that everywhere. Honestly, all of this, I've seen everywhere, which I wouldn't mind if the comedy or the world was more interesting.
(Several clips focusing on the film's world and setting are shown)
Doug (vo): And... (sighs) look at it. It's just suburbia. I feel like there's a ton of things that could be done with this, a world that's half-magic, half-modern civilization. But, no, it's mostly just modern civilization, and that's not that much fun. The comedy as well wasn't getting that many laughs out of me, like, nothing was awful, but I don't recall really chuckling, and I know there were several moments where they were holding for, like, a pause where there was supposed to be a laugh, and, I don't know. The screening I went to definitely didn't have that many laughs.
(Footage focusing on Ian and Barley as they embark on their journey is shown)
Doug (vo): But here's the thing. As soon as the quest gets started, it turns on. Suddenly, a lot of cool characters pop up, a lot of funny ideas pop up, and, yeah, a lot of dramatic moments get all the more heartbreaking. They come across this group of biker fairies, I've never seen that before. They have to find this fierce warrior called the Manticore, but she turned her cave of doom into this Chuck-E-Cheese location, that's really funny. The brother's obsession with the van gets a few chuckles. Even that pair of legs, you wouldn't think you could do too much with that, but, yeah, they do get really, really creative.
(Clips focusing on the film's third act and climax are shown)
Doug (vo): All of this builds up to a really good third act, and it so easily could've been botched. Without going into too much detail, the brothers have a fight, and it looks like they split up, and, "Oh, no! They're not gonna like each other anymore!" And you think, "Oh, God, this is gonna drag on and on." But it doesn't. They wrap it up very quickly, and it very cleverly ties in to the moral of the story. But then there's this evil entity that suddenly comes out of nowhere, and I'm thinking, "Oh, no. Are they gonna throw in a villain when you don't need it?" But then, when you see it, it's really creative and really funny. I won't give it away here, but, yeah, it's a good payoff. But the best part of all is the emotional resolution. This movie sticks the landing where Frozen II just crashed and burned. There are consequences to choices. They follow through with their sacrifices. A character doesn't give up something, and then suddenly, "Oh, no! Just kidding! Here's some magic dust, made your dream come true or something." No. They give it up for good. That's why it's called a sacrifice, that's why it's emotional, that's why it means something.
(Various clips about to be described are shown)
Doug (vo): And the funny thing about it is, the movie starts off sluggish and awkward, and then gets kind of interesting and really ends on a high note. So what's really weird are the moments that are kind of in-between there, the parts in the middle. Like, for example, there's a scene where Barley is really opening up and being vulnerable, talking about, like, something that was kind of traumatic and really left this big scar on him, and it's a really powerful scene. But...they do it while on a giant cheese puff. Usually, I'm totally down for scenes that mix something that's really dramatic with something really silly, but this just didn't quite click. There's a couple scenes like that. They're not awful, they just don't quite click. There's always something that just feels off about it.
Doug (vo): But like I said, as the film continues, it really ends strong. It's kind of like the Frost/Nixon interviews. A lot of them are kind of just blasé and not that interesting, but then suddenly, it ends on a really, really powerful note. So, yeah, I definitely recommend this film. I feel like people will either watch it and have a similar experience I did, and if you are, just stay with it. It gets really good. And if you're not like me, you'll probably just like it from beginning to end. Like I said, the opening is not really awful or anything, it just kind of felt a little generic to me. But there's a lot of people that still like seeing something that's bright and colorful and upbeat and has a little emotion to it. So, yeah, I definitely say check it out. There's surprisingly a lot more to it than just Pixar's Bright. Get behind the wheel and grab a wand. This is an adventure that pays off in the end.
(One of the film's final scenes, showing Ian and Barley embracing each other, is shown)