The Last Unicorn (1982)
Directed by Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Based on The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Starring: Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Tammy Grimes, Robert Klein, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee, Keenan Wynn, Paul Frees, René Auberjonois
Running time: 84 minutes
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A brave unicorn and a magician fight an evil king who is obsessed with attempting to capture the world’s unicorns.
As the parent of a young child but also a movie lover, I’m often on the lookout for kids’ films that I may actually enjoy as well. I’ve sat through enough crappy movies for kids that I think it’s okay to sometimes get to watch one that interests me as well. Right?! 😉 Enter the 1982 film The Last Unicorn which, apparently, is something of a cult classic, has a very high IMDB rating (for its age & the fact it’s animated) of 7.5/10, AND it’s from RANKIN/BASS plus the animators who went on to form STUDIO GHIBLI yet I’d somehow never even heard of it before?!? Holy shit – I was all over this thing when I read about it! It sounded like something that couldn’t be more ME!!! So we got the DVD & for about two months I said to the hubby & kid “Let’s watch The Last Unicorn!!!!” until they finally agreed (probably to shut me up).
Wow. The Last Unicorn is a strange one. I kind of sort of loved it. I can see that, if I’d watched it as a kid, it may now be as special to me as the Rankin/Bass classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. No, it’s not as good as Rudolph and it certainly doesn’t beat any of the Miyazaki Studio Ghibli films but there’s something kind of special & “magical” about it in the same way I feel there is about the Ghiblis. Hmm… How should I put this? This movie is so “1982” which, to me, is a great thing while to others it’ll be a bad thing. I’d only recommend this one to certain people who like things such as Studio Ghibli, Ralph Bakshi’s work, Heavy Metal (1981), The NeverEnding Story, and… maybe Labyrinth? I’m struggling to describe this but if you hate all the things I’ve listed, you should probably steer clear of The Last Unicorn. Oh – I’d also recommend it to any bronies! Bronies would love it.
I can’t really get into the plot too much and there are pictures I have to avoid posting that would contain massive spoilers. In the movie, a unicorn (voiced by Mia Farrow) discovers she’s the last unicorn in the world & goes on a journey to find out what happened to the others. She’s joined along the way by a magician called Schmendrick (voiced by Alan Arkin). Talk about an impressive voice cast, we also have Jeff Bridges as a prince, Angela Lansbury (always a favorite of mine) as a witch, and the amazing Christopher Lee who is of course perfect as the evil king who tries to capture all the unicorns in the world.
This movie has so many things that fantasy lovers will like: magic, wizards, witches, kings & princes, mythical creatures including a harpy and a rather scary, demonic Red Bull, talking butterfiles, etc etc. Oh yeah – and a unicorn! I have to say that, although unicorns have come to be seen as a “girl” thing, this movie is every bit as much for male viewers as for female – it’s not aimed just at one sex. In fact, when I mentioned this on Twitter, the response I got was from adult males saying how great this film is. I can see why it’s a cult classic – it’s very unusual and the animation is stunning. The story takes a very unexpected turn (the spoiler I’m avoiding) which I now love but took getting used to at first. It’s nice to not be able to predict what will happen like you can with most kids’ films!
As I mentioned, I found the animation stunning. I was happy just looking up images of this film to be included in this post. I think I may have to change my work computer’s wallpaper from My Neighbor Totoro to this!
Yeah, I’m a mature adult. Give me a break – I literally had a big poster of a unicorn jumping over a rainbow over my bed for years as a young girl. God I was girly for a while! Anyway, as I mentioned, the studio responsible for animating this film (Topcraft) were later hired by Hayao Miyazaki to do my other favorite Studio Ghibli movie (along with Totoro), Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind. The studio’s main members then formed Studio Ghibli. (Thanks for that info, Wikipedia!). Anyone who has been around here for a while will know what a big fan I am of Ghibli & how much I love Nausicaä so you can see why I had to see The Last Unicorn after I read about it.
My six-year-old’s opinion:
I’ve started including my daughter’s opinion on kids’ movies so that I don’t appear as some crazy old person rambling on about “cartoons”. So, I’ll include it again this time but I think it’s pretty obvious by now that this one was more for mommy. 😉
We watched this a few months ago & the movie held her attention well but she’s not really mentioned it or asked to see it again. I asked last night what she thought of that Last Unicorn movie we watched & the reply was “It was better than I thought it would be!”. lol – What does that mean?! I think she was humoring me when she agreed to watch it, then. How sweet! I do think she’s a little too young for it as some of the themes at the end are too grown-up to fully be understood. There’s nothing I’d consider “inappropriate” but it’s a bit “out there” if your kid doesn’t like weirdness plus the Red Bull may be too scary for the very young who scare easily. I can see it being one she’d rediscover & possibly love in two or three years so I’d maybe recommend it to kids of 8 or so. She does love the young Studio Ghiblis, though, (Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service & of course My Neighbor Totoro) so she was probably better able to handle any strangeness.
Hopefully I’ve given a bit of an idea as to what this movie is like – I’m going to include a clip of the opening at the end of this post to give you a better idea. This is one of those movies I’m hoping to “introduce” to people here but it’s definitely not going to be loved by anyone who isn’t into this sort of thing or the other films I mentioned in the review. I also think being over 35 & under 10 would help. This is exactly the type of animated movie that obsessive film lovers my age who have young kids look for. I forgot to mention that this movie includes songs by America that are the very definition of late 70s/early 80s “easy listening”. If you like K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies, you may be able to handle this film. Or if you’re the type to get that reference.
My Rating: 8/10
**I’m including a clip of the opening of this film to give you an idea what it’s like. If you can’t make it past the song by America at 2 1/2 minutes in without gagging, this movie may not be for you… 😉