Onward is a no go for me!
First of all, I love movies, and I love Disney, but this time, I am a ‘NO’ vote. Let me explain why I feel this way about Onward.
Here is the real question. Should you go to the movies to see Onward? Wait until it comes out on DVD? See it at home? Or just avoid it altogether? To help you make this decision, I am going to spoil the storyline. I feel like it is essential before you take your child to see it that you have a larger picture.
Dad Passed Away
Dealing with death is hard for adults and even more so for small children. My father died when I was 12, and I can tell you that the grief and understanding come in waves as you age. I’m not sure sitting in a movie theater is the best place to deal with a child’s grief and pain.
The movie opens with Dad already gone. You do not see him die, but as the movie progresses, you learn that the dad died of an illness.
Youngest Son, Ian
Ian is the awkward, anxiety-riddled teenager that has been raised by a single mother and an older brother. He never met his father because he died before Ian was born. He makes lists of his deepest desires, which include having a heart-to-heart talk with his dad.
Oldest Son, Barley
Barley still lives at home as an over-weight, game playing, rule-breaking, undesirable. His biggest regret in life is that he didn’t get to say goodbye to his dad. He shares the story of being scared when his dad was hooked up to tubes and machines and, as a young child, could not force himself to go into the room to say goodbye.
The setting is a ‘modern’ town filled with dragons, elves, and memories of magic. Toss in a nod to Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons, and fantasy adventures, and this should’ve been a fun experience.
There were tons of amazing characters introduced throughout Onward, but they are not developed and leave you wondering to the point of being annoyed. They used both feet and jumped straight into the emotional trauma of death but did only wrapped it up for one character.
The two brothers create this awesome 24 hour adventure with the quest of bringing back their dad so that Ian could meet him for the first time, and Barley could apologize for not saying goodbye. Unfortunately, Barley got a few seconds with dad while Ian saw him from a distance through a hole in a rock.
There are many times in their quest where the situations are high stress. One specific scene is where Ian steps out over a gorge on an invisible bridge. Everyone in my group said they physically responded to that scene with nausea, wiggly knees, and a rapid heart rate. It was realistically shocking.
My mind went to small children throughout this entire movie—those dealing with anxiety, depression, and stress. Depending on the child, I would proceed with caution.
In the End
Ian realizes that his older brother was his dad, and his life has been blessed. He no longer has anxiety and moves on with his life. Barley has proven himself to be an asset to his family and no longer feels like the loser he was originally portrayed to be.
There are many variables to consider when attending this movie. Has your child lost a parent and what was the circumstance of the death? What is the current relationship your children have with their siblings following the death? Maybe your child has not lost a parent but has the fear of losing a parent? Overall, this is emotional and you need to be prepared to deal with those emotions.
The audience, the mother, and the youngest son Ian, never get to communicate with the father. We are left with the only closure being that Barley got to say he was sorry and hug the dad. I get the meaning, but after over an hour of swimming in grief, it was not enough closure.
If you decide to go watch Onward, take the tissues.
You can watch the trailer for Onward here.