A lonely unicorn and a hopeful magician embark on a
quest to find the rest of the unicorns and defeat an evil king.
The Last Unicorn (1982)
Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr.
Written by Peter S. Beagle
Starring Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Tammy Grimes,
Jeff Bridges, Christopher Lee, Angela Lansbury
Based on the novel by Peter S. Beagle
The Last Unicorn surprised me in a number of ways. I knew nothing about it going in and I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging the film turned out to be. It boldly flaunts fairytale conventions and delivers an unpredictable third act that seems to slap the traditional Disney-esque formula in the face. It sports a surprisingly catchy soundtrack and is a touch darker than most of the kids movies to come out of the 80's. That's probably why it worked so well. Unfortunately, the film does take a hard left in the third act and loses itself. Still, if you're looking for an nontraditional fantasy epic, look no further.
The Last Unicorn tells the story of a lonely unicorn named Amalthea who embarks on a quest to find the rest of her kind, all of whom have mysteriously disappeared. Along the way, she encounters Schmendrick the magician (played by a painfully disinterested Alan Arkin) and an adventurous woman named Molly Grue. Together, they confront the evil King Haggard, one of the most bizarre animated villains I've ever seen, and Amalthea is turned into a human who falls in love with the king's son, Prince Lir. It's around this part that the film goes in a wildly different direction and drastically loses focus. Amalthea as a human makes zero sense and completely changes the film's story, so much so that the ending seems tacked on at the last minute. The voice cast ranges from deeply invested to quick paycheck job, particularly in that last bit. Still, I liked how the prince and the unicorn did not end up together and a valuable lesson was taught. If you fall in love with a mythical creature, it probably won't work out.
I think this film inadvertently contributed to later films that would change the formula, such as Shrek and Frozen. In that respect, The Last Unicorn is a landmark animated film that has since become a cult classic for anybody who wants to does themselves on peyote before watching a movie. It's not a great movie, but it's a far cry from a bad one. I enjoyed most of it. I think it might be time for a new generation to put their mark on the story. Until then, this one will do.