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)  

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  1. […] comedies fared no better.  I reviewed two this year:  the laughless Kung Fu Panda and The Last Unicorn, which was truly bizarre.  I can’t get over that three-titted vulture and that bosomy […]

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