A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Can inspire interest in how stories are adapted to the screen, the narrative qualities of this story, the process of animation, as well as conversations about confronting fears and anxieties. The family in the film also seems to be passing down an oral tradition, a topic for potential discussion.
Being scared is a part of life; you have to feel fear, push through the unknown, and live life anyway. So much of how we see ourselves is through the eyes of others. Everyone has insecurities. We write our own stories.
Positive Role Models
Orion is a little boy riddled with anxieties that are stopping him from living his life until one day he decides to be brave, and it changes his destiny. Looking back, he imagines a fantastical story for his daughter that explains his discovery that he could no longer let fear get in the way of living his life. In the story, his daughter proves herself clever and brave as well.
Fantastical animated creatures populate this story, and they travel the world every day, treating people around the globe equally. We all share a planet that sees the sun rise and set each day. All humans have fears, and all humans need sleep. Orion's schoolteacher has a Spanish name and accent. The voice cast is diverse.
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Violence & Scariness
Orion's fears, which he sketches in a book (and which come alive), include murderous clowns, bugs, and bees, cell phone waves, falling from a skyscraper, public humiliation, rejection, a school bully, and especially the dark. The bully makes appearances off the sketchbook pages too, where he teases and threatens Orion, and as a giant in a dreamscape. In Orion's story, he's whisked out of his home by the night and into an adventure that will involve seeing people seemingly smothered or hit to be put to sleep at night (then given a goodnight kiss), sucked into a vortex, and nearly killed more than once. Kids get stuck in time, and one has to be transported back to her life after fending off monsters with a shooting weapon. When earth is engulfed in nonstop light, humans sleep less, get agitated, and turn against each other.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kids have crushes, adults express affection.
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"Hell," "heck," "butt," "jerk," "stupid," "idiot," "cuckoo," "wacko," "infernal."
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Products & Purchases
The film could inspire interest in the book or in other Dreamworks animations.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the book-based animated Orion and the Dark places an anxiety-ridden child (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) in perilous situations. Orion sketches in a book, and the sketches come alive—including murderous clowns, bugs, and bees; cell phone waves; falling from a skyscraper; public humiliation; rejection; someone bullying him at school; and especially the dark. Though they appear to be a figment of his imagination, these scenarios and images could prove intense for very young viewers. The person in the bullying drawing makes appearances outside the sketchbook pages, too: He teases and threatens Orion and appears as a giant in a dreamscape. In Orion's story, he's whisked by the dark out of his home and into an adventure that will involve seeing people seemingly smothered or hit to be put to sleep at night (then given a goodnight kiss), sucked into a vortex, and nearly killed more than once. The film also includes some insults and the word "hell." Ultimately there are positive messages about finding the courage to push through our fears and not letting them stop us from living our lives to the fullest. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The visual and narrative magic of this film helps to balance a potentially downbeat reading of a generation of anxious kids who, if Orion is any indication, must be taught to live. Written by Charlie Kaufman and based on a book by Emma Yarlett, Orion and the Dark makes its target audience clear in the first lines of the film, when its 11-year-old everyman protagonist says, "I'm a kid, just like you." Orion's nail-biting world is quickly revealed as his fears are entertainingly visualized in childlike drawings that leap off the pages of his sketchbook. These scratches are later complemented with soaring animated dreamscapes of competing ghost-like entities spreading light and dark around the globe, over varied landscapes, towns, and cities.
The film features a narration by German filmmaker Werner Herzog and Kaufman-style narrative-shifting and time-bending, where the action is spliced to flash forward to Orion crafting the story we're watching for his daughter, and back and forth from there. A time-traveling character with monster-tasing weaponry feels completely out of place, until it's revealed it's someone else's imagination who conjured up that scenario. It's all a neat narrative trick that, surprisingly, shouldn't lose young audiences along the way. As Orion's daughter Hypatia complains, adults love simple stories. This film might have some relatively straightforward messages, but it's not exactly a simple tale. And it's better for that.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.