Onward, Disney/Pixar’s latest, is the studios first original work in three years, but still feels derivative. A second viewing improves and deepens the character’s relationships, but the quest aspect of story introduces a lot of noise, and the magical creature metaphor lacks punch. It didn’t drop my previous estimation as much as Toy Story 4 did, but it didn’t improve things. I sits right next to Cars 3: Could have a used a little more time in the oven. From Boulder Weekly Vol. 27, No. 29, “Onward.”

Once upon a time, the world was filled with magic and wonder. But that was “once upon a time.” Nowadays, the world is dull and boring and routine. For Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland), school is a drag, the dog, err, dragon is a hyperactive pest, and older brother Barley (Chris Pratt) loafs about listening to too much hair metal and playing tabletop role-playing games. But then a magical staff and an incantation spell show up, and all hell breaks loose. Ian’s dad was a wizard, which means Ian might be one too. And, if Ian can find a Phoenix Gem and say the spell correctly, he’ll be able to summon the dear-old dad he never got to meet. Onward is a rote story, but Pixar tries to jazz it up by setting it on a fantasy planet populated by elves, pixies, dragons and manticores. The jabs at soul-consuming commercialism work well, as does an exhilarating chase down a freeway, but with so little at stake, the desire to see the Lightfoot brothers succeed takes a backseat to the stunning visuals and detailed animation. If you’re hankering a game of catch with dad, Onward will tug on those heartstrings. If you’re not, then at least the pictures are pretty.

Onward is available to stream on Disney+. Header image courtesy Disney/Pixar.