“Long ago, the world was full of wonder. It was adventurous. Exciting. And best of all there was magic.” Disney Pixar’s, Onward, embarks on a magical quest between two brothers. Will this original film live up to high Pixar standards? Full of adventure, surprises, and heartfelt moments, is Onward kid-friendly? I’m breaking down all of the thematic elements in my Onward Parent Movie Review to help YOU decide if it’s safe for kids. As always, no spoilers!
Onward Parent Movie Review | #PixarOnward
As a mom of two boys, I was thrilled when I heard Disney’s Pixar was producing a film about two BROTHERS! This is my whole life. I was eager to see how the story would unfold; hoping for heartfelt moments, and a tale of the unbreakable bond between brothers. What I got was so much more.
Pixar’s Onward opens with an introduction to the Lightfoot brothers, Ian and Barley. The movie is set in suburbia, much like our own world. However, this world is pure fantasy; filled with elves, unicorns, wizards, dragons, trolls, etc. There are no human beings. This reminded me a bit of Disney’s Zootopia. As much as I would have liked the Lightfoot brothers to be human and not elves, having the characters as mythical creatures made the story more believable. Kids know we can’t actually do magic. But elves? Why not?
It is the morning of Ian Lightfoot’s 16th birthday, and his mother, Laurel, has a surprise for BOTH of her sons. Their late father left something for the brothers once they were both 16 years old. The gift is a wizard staff, along with a magical spell to bring back their father for one day.
Unfortunately, the spell doesn’t go exactly as planned. Ian and Barley set off on a quest to see their dad one more time.
Pixar is well-known for its extraordinary animation. Think the Toy Story franchise, UP, Coco. Did Onward live up to the hype? Well, yes and no. Don’t get me wrong, the animation is stunning. I mean, everything really looks so REAL. But when comparing it to films (Toy Story 4 for example), there is no comparison. That’s not to say the visuals in Onward aren’t good, it’s just saying they’re not of “that” level.
Onward celebrates the magic of believing in yourself
Although they’re brothers, Ian and Barley couldn’t be more opposite. Ian lacks any form of self-confidence. He’s nervous, scared, and he’s really trying to discover his true self…whatever that may be. Barley on the other hand isn’t afraid of anything. He shares an event that changed him, and it will help you understand his character and why he is the way he is.
Although the Lightfoot brothers are on a quest to bring back their dad, they’re also on their own individual quests. Ian is ultimately searching for self-discovery, while Barley is trying to prove he’s not a “screw up.”
Trust me when I tell you this story has more depth than meets the eye.
Ian and Barley’s mom is a true “Mama Bear”
Laurel Lightfoot has been through a lot. Years ago she lost her husband because he was “sick.” Her oldest son only has a few memories of his dad, while her youngest never had the chance to meet him. She raised her two boys on her own, and naturally, she’s very protective of them.
When she discovers they went out on this journey and they could be in danger, she does what any mom would do. She goes into “mama bear mode” and rushes off to save them. She doesn’t let the fear of her own danger get in her way. She’s determined to protect her babies. NOTHING will stop her.
I think Laurel has a bit of her own self-discovery in this journey. I really appreciated the strong warrior she is for her boys. And of course, as a boy mom myself, I could relate.
Is Onward Kid-Friendly?
The big question. Should you take your kids to see Disney Pixar’s Onward? What age is best to see Onward? Is it too scary? Too emotional? Onward is rated PG for some mild, rude humor and mild action and peril. It has a running time of 1 hour 43 minutes. This film magically flies by, but doesn’t feel too rushed. Prepare to be engaged from start to finish.
Violence: While there is some violence, I was honestly expecting there to be more of it. The violence that is shown has a bit of humor thrown into it. There’s also a car chase involving some Pixie’s on motorcycles. But it’s more funny than violent. I would say Onward has more suspenseful elements than violence.
Language: Zip. Zilch. Nada. BUT…there was one phrase used more than once that I wasn’t fond of. Barley is referred to as a “screw up.” That just made me sad because I feel no kid should be told that about themselves.
Adult Themes: Ian and Barley’s mother, Laurel, has a boyfriend, Colt Bronco. There is also one scene where you see Barley’s butt crack. Of course my boys found this hysterical.
Sensitive Topics: Barley and Ian lost their dad at a very young age. In fact, Ian never even met him. The loss of a parent in a kids film is always a sensitive topic and might raise questions. However, if your kids see a lot of Disney films, they are probably familiar with this theme. It’s not to say it’s ever easy to handle. It’s meant to be sad, and it is.
Age Recommendation: I saw Onward with my two children, ages 6 and 10. While they both immensely enjoyed the movie, my 10 year old REALLY enjoyed it. He took away key messages, that would obviously go right over my younger sons head. My 6 year old liked it, but he couldn’t really tell me why. However, he is a very sensitive child, and there weren’t any scenes that were too hard for him. For this reason, I’d recommend Onward for ages 5 and up. I think younger kids might enjoy it, but get a little lost in the dialogue.
Key Messages in Onward
Onward is loaded with life-lessons. I think we can all take something away from this Pixar film. The biggest takeaway is not only believing in yourself, but also believing in one another.
Also? The truth matters. Telling what we might think are innocent white lies, can really hurt someone. Onward stresses the importance of always being truthful with not only others, but also yourself.
Side note: While this isn’t necessarily a key message, I LOVED how they incorporated the title of the film into the movie! “Put it in O for Onward.” – Barley Lightfoot
Disney Pixar’s Onward takes us on an extraordinary magical quest with the Lightfoot brothers. Throughout the journey, the brothers learn that sometimes what you’re looking for, is something you had right along. Onward will encourage you to hold on tightly to your loved ones and speak your hearts fire. Grab your family, hop in your own Guinevere, buckle up, and head to the theatres. If anything, Onward will teach you to love the ones you’re with.
Set in a suburban fantasy world, Disney and Pixar’s “Onward” introduces two teenage elf brothers who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there. Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new original feature film is directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae—the team behind “Monsters University.” “Onward” releases in theaters on March 6, 2020.
Follow Disney•Pixar’s Onward on Social Media:
- Website: https://movies.disney.com/onward
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pixaronward
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/pixaronward
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pixaronward/
I hope you enjoyed my Onward parent movie review. Will you be taking your family to see Pixar’s latest?
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