The Last Unicorn (1982)

A pissed off vulture with three saggy tits.  A tree with two voluptuous bosoms.  A three-legged cat that sounds like a pirate.  An alcoholic skull.  A guy in love with a magical horse.

Half-assedly perverse, The Last Unicorn is an animated fable that clearly wants to be a low-budget Disney musical.  How this got a Family rating from the Ontario Film Review Board I would like to know.  (It should’ve been rated PG.)  Too demented and slow for kids, had it realized its potential as an adult offering it might have been something truly subversive and special.

Mia Farrow voices the sympathetic title character who makes the mistake of asking a butterfly (an annoying Robert Klein) what happened to all her brethren.  After wasting time by singing samples of very old pop songs that most little ones won’t know or remember, he finally informs her that a mysterious character called the Red Bull (it won’t give you wings) chased after them erasing all their hoof prints in the process.  In order to rescue them, he advises, she has to be brave and leave the comfort of her magical forest where it’s always Spring and she has no worry of dying.

So, off she trots for ages and through the seasons until she passes out and is picked up by Mommy Fortuna (a miscast Angela Lansbury), an old hag that runs a travelling animal freak show.  She is one of the few who can actually see the unicorn’s horn.  Everybody else just sees a white mare.

Fortuna puts a fake horn on her head so her gullible customers can clue in and locks her in a cage along with all her other attractions.  Most of them are just old animals transformed into unusual creations except for that pissed off vulture with the three saggy tits.  Actually, it’s a harpy but whatever.

I have to say those tits are very distracting.  Maybe it’s the large nipples.

Anyway, a big-nosed magician (Alan Arkin or is it Kevin Pollak?) who looks uncannily like Pete Townshend takes pity on the unicorn and tries very, very hard to free her with his not-so-spectacular magic.  When none of his spells of gibberish work, he simply picks the mocking lock (“Some magician!”).  After the unicorn frees the old animals with her lock-picking horn, the magician warns her not to release the harpy.

She doesn’t listen.  The harpy with the three saggy tits tries to attack her (the ungrateful bitch) but ultimately settles on Mommy Fortuna who doesn’t really care all that much about being devoured.  She thinks that because she was able to keep the harpy prisoner, that embarrassing fact alone will haunt the triple-titted predator for the rest of her days.  I think she’s out of her mind.

Now free, the magician tags along with the unicorn as they search for the miserable King Haggard (the always effective Christopher Lee) who we later find out hired a wizard to create the Red Bull to chase the unicorns from their enchanted forest into the sea near his high-rise castle.  The only joy he gets out of life is knowing they’re underwater as he looks down below.  So why does he never smile?  Maybe because they never pop out of the water to say hi?

Look, I know it’s a cartoon but how exactly do unicorns breathe underwater?  Also, when you find out how many are in Haggard’s custody, why don’t they all rush the Red Bull at once?  Are they really that powerless outside the enchanted forest?

Before the magician and the unicorn get to his castle, though, the magician gets kidnapped by some opportunistic bandits.  At one point, he’s tied to a tree, his punishment for conjuring the spirits of Robin Hood, his merry men and Maid Marian.  (Captain Culley, the head bandit, claims they’re a “myth”.)  He’s also going to be sold.  (Is there a burgeoning market for inconsistent wizards?)  In order to attempt to free himself, he casts a spell.  The now super horny tree suddenly grows rather large bosoms.  The magician’s head fits snugly in between them.  Did I mention this is a kids’ movie?

Molly (Tammy Grimes), the grumpy, unhappy companion of Culley, wants to tag along because she’s very fond of the unicorn.  She’s always wanted one, you see, and is a little too teary-eyed about finally being in the company of one.  When the Red Bull comes calling, the magician turns the unicorn into a naked, long-haired blonde babe he ultimately dubs Lady Amalthea (how did he come up with that name so quickly?) who he tries to pass off as his niece which no one buys.

Finally at the castle entrance, they encounter two skeptical guards who turn out to be Haggard himself and his adopted son Prince Lir (Jeff Bridges).  The only other occupants in this place are a few guards and a wizard who gets fired.  (Molly, who apparently doesn’t own any socks or shoes, is put to work as a cook and cleaner.)  There’s also a three-legged cat who sounds like a pirate (his fourth is a peg leg) and wears a patch for no good reason (he’s not missing an eye), plus a cackling skull that craves alcohol.  Both provide enigmatic clues to discovering the location of the lost unicorns.

Lir falls hard and fast for the initially indifferent Amalthea who is quickly forgetting she’s actually a magical horse.  This forced romance is awkward enough but Lir’s attempts at poetry and singing make you wonder if he’s ever had a girlfriend.  He also slices off the tail of a dragon to try to impress her.  Has he ever had a date?

Ah yes, the singing.  Bridges and Mia Farrow do their best with forgettable material but their voices aren’t strong enough to compensate for unmoving melodies.  (Farrow sounds a bit pitchy, dawg.)  The rest of these dreary songs are performed by America, one of which we have to suffer through twice.  There’s no Horse With No Name or Magic to be heard here.  How unsurprising that the soundtrack to this film has never been released in North America.

The Last Unicorn is based on the book of the same name.  Its author, Peter S. Beagle, had been trying for 15 years to turn it into a feature film.  (He’s also been attempting to get a live-action remake shot but that’s not happening any time soon.)  His adapted screenplay lacks wit and emotional heart.  Most of the voice actors are often better than the hit-and-miss lines they’re given.  And the story has zero suspense.

The animation is wildly uneven.  Some scenes look good, especially on Blu-ray which rewards colourful images, while others look unfinished, reminiscent of the cheapo Disney era that began with the unfunny 101 Dalmatians.  Consider the moment when the unicorns ride that wave to freedom.  That’s not theatrical quality work.  That’s straight-to-video-level mediocrity.

When the movie turned 25 eleven years ago, a censored version hit home video.  Basically, that means three “damns” and a “hell” were inexplicably removed.  Will such words scandalize children today?  In a hardcore world filled with “motherfuckers” and “cocksuckers”, obviously not.

But I’m sure there’ll be lots of boob questions.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 20, 2018
4:56 p.m.

Published in: on May 20, 2018 at 4:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Cocktail (1988)

Cocktail is the heartwarming story of a self-absorbed douchebag who gets everything he wants despite being a self-absorbed douchebag.

A young Tom Cruise plays that self-absorbed douchebag, an Army veteran ready to start his new life in New York City.  Perpetually tardy, he struggles to find work in high-profile industries that require more than a high school diploma.

After enduring a succession of rejections, he spots a help wanted sign in a local bar run by Bryan Brown, another self-absorbed douchebag who lives by his own invented “laws”.  A cynical Aussie who delights in deceiving his own customers, he takes a desperate Cruise under his wing.  They deserve each other.

Cruise’s first night, as you can imagine, doesn’t go so well.  He’s never bartended before.  But to be fair, this is no ordinary bartending gig.  You don’t just serve drinks here.  No, in this place, you also put on a show.  What does that mean exactly?  It means juggling and dancing to rock and roll.  Oh, and reciting poetry.  Bad, laughless poetry.

During the day, an eventually fatigued Cruise attends a local college hoping to develop enough skills to start his own business.  He dreams of franchising his own bar in shopping malls.  But the professors are brutal.  One particular instructor delights in humiliating his own students, especially when they fuck up an assignment.  In one of his few heroic moments, Cruise sticks up for an adult student, a housewife who gets ridiculed in an uncomfortably sexist way.

But most of the time, like his mentor, he’s hard to take.

Brown and Cruise get offered a chance to bartend at a place called Cell Block, a giant warehouse that looks more like a set that an actual watering hole.  It’s here he encounters hot photog Gina Gershon who he inevitably beds.

Brown warns him afterwards that she’s not girlfriend material. (It’s enough with the “slut” shaming already.)  He beds her, too, which leads to a serious falling out.

Cruise relocates to Jamaica where he tends his own bar.  A frantic Elizabeth Shue needs help with her passed out friend and the barman springs into action.  They get intimate very quickly despite their lack of believability as a couple.

There are too many consecutive scenes featuring Cruise and the artsy Shue being unfunny and luvey duvey which means at some point it’s all going to suddenly come to a crashing halt.  In the midst of this, Brown unexpectedly shows up with a new, rich wife (Kelly Lynch) and one night, he bets Cruise (they’re always gambling with each other) he can’t get that attractive older woman (Lisa Banes) at the bar to shag him.

As Cruise and Banes drunkenly walk away together on the beach, guess who just happens to be walking up at the same time.  Devastated by the betrayal, without telling Cruise (he doesn’t see her approaching), Shue flies back to New York.

Incredibly, even after learning what happened, Cruise doesn’t put two and two together.  Instead, because Banes is loaded and could give him a job as a salesman (we have no idea what her business is), he continues to see her.  He’s clearly not happy so why does he torture himself like this?  They fly back to New York and soon have a messy split.

Remembering where Shue works in the city (she’s a diner waitress), Cruise starts stalking her. Then, he finally works up the courage to go in.  Big mistake.  He shouldn’t have asked for the specials.  Nonetheless, now that he’s available again, he keeps trying to get her back.

As it turns out, Shue isn’t just mad at him for boinkng someone else.  She got a little unexpected present from their own romp on the beach.  You would think she’d just get it taken care of already.  But no.

Cruise then blames her for what happened, claiming with a straight face that she’s the reason everything was happening too quickly.  But he eventually calms down and discovers that Shue hasn’t been completely honest with him, either.  You could be in a coma and still correctly predict how all this will end.

It’s been 30 years since the original release of Cocktail and time has not been kind.  The film is painfully sexist.  Every woman is either a bitch, a “slut”, a liar, a manipulator or a victim needing to be rescued.  What a mistake to merge this formulaic melodrama into a terrible comedy.  There are no funny moments.  We dislike the chauvinistic Brown and Cruise and don’t buy either of their relationships.  They’re charmless golddiggers.

Late in the film, Cruise learns that Brown’s life has completely fallen apart.  His wife openly cheats on him in the new bar they own.  (She even makes a play for Cruise.)  And despite the packed crowd the night he visits him, they’re not making any money.  (Too much overhead.)  That leads to another fairly predictable moment that is not as impactful as the filmmakers were hoping it would be.

Cocktail seems less interested in revealing the mysterious, insular world of bartending than it is in pushing Cruise as some kind of irresistible stud.  There’s no denying the man’s charisma but his uneven character makes him difficult to root for.  There’s such a disconnect between his occasional bouts of heroism and his more typical cocksure womanizing.

Bryan Brown starts off as an interesting character, smart and worldly, before ultimately exposing himself as a fraudulent, insufferable ne’er-do-well.  Cruise’s animosity towards him after he fools around with Gershon mysteriously disappears when he suddenly arrives in Jamaica.  Yes, Cruise is seeing Elizabeth Shue at this point but there’s no make-up scene.  It’s all conveniently forgotten.  Brown just isn’t lovable enough to get away with such treachery.  Why Cruise allows him to repeatedly muck around with his love life is a mystery.  Capitalism is a helluva drug.

Briefly seen supporting players like Gershon, Banes and longtime character actor Ron Dean, who plays Cruise’s no-nonsense bar-owning uncle, are more watchable and less grating.  Dean, in particular, makes the most of his interactions with Cruise.  He’s clearly a more straightforward mentor than Bryan.  He’s not out to screw family.

I didn’t screen Cocktail during its original run in 1988 but I vividly remember some of the music.  I’ve forgotten that Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy made its debut on the soundtrack.  (No clips were shown in the highly aired video.)  It gets a lot more play than the tiny snippet of The Beach Boys’ Kokomo which became their last huge single.

Cocktail was released two years after the one-two punch of Top Gun and The Colour Of Money and the year before Born On The Fourth Of July.  It is an odd entry in the Tom Cruise canon, an uncharacteristic misstep in his first decade of fame.  He’s made other bad films in his career but this archaic curiosity remains his bottom.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, May 5, 2018
1:38 a.m.

Published in: on May 5, 2018 at 1:38 am  Comments (2)