Onward I Go with My Thoughts on ‘Onward’

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Pixar/YouTube Screenshot

There’s a certain trope that’s kind of popular in TV and movies. And you can tell that it’s popular because the characters are always so enthusiastic when it happens. In fact, it’s kind of defined by its enthusiasm. I’m talking about, you guessed it, the almighty Title Drop! It’s that triumphant moment when movie characters say the name of the movie within the course of the movie itself. If they do it really well, it makes you go, “Hey, that’s the name of the movie!” (Thanks, Arrested Development!) And Onward, as it turns out, has a doozy of a title drop. In fact, I’ve decided I would like to evaluate the entire film based on how strong that title drop is.

But first, I’ll run through some more straightforward thoughts I have. This tale of elf bros Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) attempting to resurrect their dad for one day feels like a pretty straightforward quest adventure, although it does have the added twist of taking place in a world where magic has petered out despite the population of magical creatures. Ultimately a big part of your enjoyment of Onward will likely depend on how much you connect to its message of brotherhood. And as a brother, and someone who has a brother, I must fairly say, I felt the brotherly vibes. If you too are a brother, or have ever imagined what it feels like to be a brother, you might feel similarly.

Now, back to that title drop. As the action is really starting to ramp up, with Ian taking the wheel of Barley’s trusty van Guinevere, Barley commands, “Put it in ‘O’ for ‘Onward’!”

Did that moment make me go … well, you know?

Indeed it did.

Success!

‘Birds of Prey’ Just Lets Harley Quinn Do Whatever the Hell She Wants

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Warner Bros.

Starring: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina, Ali Wong

Director: Cathy Yan

Running Time: 109 Minutes

Rating: R for So Many Broken Bones and Direct Bullet Hits

Release Date: February 7, 2020

The full title of Birds of Prey is Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), but a better moniker would have been Harley Queen (and also the Birds of Prey [Sort Of] Form by the End). I’ve never really known the titular psychologist to be a member of any of the former iterations of this female superteam, though to all you DC devotees out there, feel free to let me know if I’ve been missing out on anything important in the comics. But regardless of how the source material goes, Margot Robbie’s version of Harley is never fully committed to being a Bird of Prey. But while the emphasis in the title may be misplaced, that doesn’t necessarily mean the movie is bad. What it does mean is that director Cathy Yan and her ensemble are willing to do whatever the hell they want, for better and worse.

It starts out promisingly and invigoratingly enough, as Harley tells us her story in John Kricfalusi-style animated form from nun-run orphanage to PhD to the Clown Prince of Crime’s arm candy to unpredictable free agent. This is dynamite context-establishing in the vein of Into the Spider-Verse, but the pace of the rest of the film can’t quite keep up. The plot is simple enough to keep track of, as a diverse crew of vigilantes, detectives, and criminals start swarming around a teenage pickpocket (Ella Jay Basco) who has swallowed a diamond that’s worth millions. Time frequently gets rewound to fill us in on backstory and to keep us on our toes, but in the end, it’s all just Gotham’s most relatively mentally well-adjusted criminals getting annoyed at each other.

The violence is shocking and gleeful, but also discordant against the neon-bubblegum aesthetic. It would be a mistake to think that Harley is so sweet that she wouldn’t hurt a fly, but it is never clear how she learned to readily break so many legs with such elan. That technique sums up Birds of Prey as a whole. It keeps hitting you in so many directions while simultaneously blowing up everything in sight and cackling like a hyena (much like the one Harley keeps as a pet). Harley is chaotic good, chaotic neutral, and/or chaotic evil – whatever the situation calls for. She may not be anything more than an adjunct Bird of Prey, but the full-time Birds are happy to join her gig for however long she’ll have them. I’m glad these ladies are having fun, though I would have appreciated some more discipline in the storytelling momentum.

Birds of Prey is Recommended If You Like: The DCEU’s recent one-off vibe and you give a lot of leeway for uniqueness

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Perfect Egg Sandwiches