Title: The Last Unicorn
Parents, though rated G this movie does have some mild violence, language, and themetic material. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
While I am a huge fan of animation, I must confess that I have never seen “The Last Unicorn” before. Don’t look at me like that, no matter how many feminine film I’ve seen in my life, there was nothing that was going to convince me to see a movie in a pink case with a white unicorn on it. No amount of open-mindedness was going to put my manhood into THAT much question! Recently though a brand new 25th Anniversary DVD was released that caused me to look at the film again. The first thing that stood out was the fact that this movie that looked like it was geared towards five year old girls was still popular after twenty-five years was certainly nothing to scoff at. Then I noticed that the pink was replaced with a dark blue holographic cover, with some deep reds, making the film look more mature then I have seen it before.
Then I noticed the movie was produced by Rankin/Bass, the studio who brought us animated classics like “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Santa Clause Is Coming To Town,” and “Frosty The Snowman,” TV specials that not only do I personally enjoy, but are loved by the public so much they have aired on TV every year since they were first created (now multiple times thanks to cable TV). Finally I noticed that the movie featured voice work from Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges, Oscar winner Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee, and Angela Lansbury. To top it all off, the soundtrack was produced by former popular eighties band America. Clearly I had underestimated this movie; this movie had some serious talent behind it. Talent I was unaware of for all my life. Deciding that risking my reputation once more, I picked up a copy of “The Last Unicorn.”
So what do I think of the film? Well, it shocked me, that’s for sure. All these years I was expecting a movie about a unicorn doing stupid things to appeal to young girls. Things like dancing on rainbows, singing melodies, and communicating with furry animals. The last thing I was expecting was a film that contained wizards, red boars (lifted straight from Deuteronomy, a book in the Bible), and the theme of what happens to a pure animal when you give it human emotions. Once again, I had clearly underestimated this film. Not only was I completely wrong about this film being a film squarely for little girls, but I wondered whether kids in general could appreciate the powerful storyline this movie posses. The story: A unicorn (Mia Farrow) overhears a hunter claiming that she may be the last unicorn on the face of the world. With the fearful thought that she might be alone in the world, she leaves her forest to see if more unicorns can be found.
She ends up traveling with a below average wizard named Schmendrick (Alan Arkin), who is neither the brightest wizard or the most powerful wizard. After an attack from a wild red boar threatens the unicorns life, Schmendrick turns her into a human named Amalthea, an act that frightens the unicorn as she would rather die. Remember, a unicorn is pure, free of feelings of love, fear, and concern. Now as a human, Amalthea can feel all those emotions, and that frightens her. Complicating the matters further is when she falls in love with a Prince named Lir (Jeff Bridges), a man who may be the son of king responsible for stealing/killing all the unicorns (you don’t think I’m going to give away what happens to them now). The heart of the story comes from this point in the film, as even if Amalthea goes back to being a unicorn, she will carry with her the human emotions she experienced as a human.
Emotions she was never supposed to feel in the first place. From reading that description the movie clearly comes off sounding like a very complicated story...and you would be right if you assumed that. From the opening scene that contains lush animation and a haunting sound by America, the movie grabs your attention with an artistic eye and keen sense of storytelling. It makes you want to take the journey, the problem is it’s an uneven journey. Let’s take the songs for example: Some of the songs are extremely haunting and give the movie weight I can’t imagine it having without the said song.
Then we have some songs that are complete duds that take away from the film due to corniness, including a duet between Jeff Bridges and Mia Farrow that brings the film to a sudden halt. The animation jumps from luscious and beautiful to static and jagged. While this film has been described as many things I don’t think consistency is one of them. The movie is wildly inconsistent, being gripping and compelling half of the time only to become tedious and dull for the rest of the film. It’s maddened me more then anything because the themes of this movie are very mature themes, and I confess that the ending had a profound impact on me to the point where I stayed up late that night thinking about it. The ending shows that everyone knew what they were doing, they just lost track of that somewhere down the road.
It’s also maddening because I’m at a crossroads about whether I liked this film or not. I can’t really recommend the film because of it’s inconsistency, but I also can’t give it a bad grade because there was much of the film I did like. One thing I will say is that the film is much better then I thought it would be, and I think people going out of their way to watch it because they think it’s something it’s not needs to wake up and give it a shot. That said, I’m ultimately not going to give it a passing grade for the technical problems, but don’t take that as a solid non-recommendation because I think the grade is going to haunt me for a long time, and it might get changed several times. Much like the unicorn who will forever be haunted by the human emotions she was never supposed to experience.