While the narrative does ultimately work, there are quite a few speed bumps along the way. The opening and ending of the movie don't belong as they utilize uninspired tropes that make you feel like your watching a completely different thing. Then there are two separate moments where the score is overbearing and ruins some genuine heart to hearts or dispirits the final act. These problems all play into a bigger issue that goes beyond Pixar films. The act of cutting off emotional resonance with a joke or music cue is used to relieve the audience of brunting any emotional work. It's a modern problem that gives viewers a pass as filmmakers only want people to cry at the very end. I wish those moments could be given room to breathe.
Pixar has always seemed more interested in telling stories than chasing digital superiority. Unlike recent Disney Animation movies, there was never an instance where I thought I was looking at something real. The more stylized approach works here as the fantasy setting ends up validating itself by the end. Even though photorealism isn't achieved here, the animation technology on display is no slouch. The hair on characters melds the abundant strands with a course look that makes it the best hair I've seen in animation. Magical effects are wonderfully rendered and realized.
Onward is the best thing from Pixar since Up. It has the heart, it looks great, and my entire theater clapped... twice. It's a safe bet to take the whole family to when it comes out on March 6, and everyone will have a good time. Children and adults laughed, awed, and the adults teared up. I hope this is a sign that Pixar will go back to making moving animated stories that hit the mark. Not only would audiences finally be going to movies that are worth their time, but the whole industry would benefit too.
I hope this isn't an Incredibles 2 moment where I really like it then realize its not that good