A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Last Unicorn is an unconventional, mythological family film. Not a typical fairy tale with a traditional good-vs.-evil plot and happy ending, it has sad moments, challenging decisions to be made, and no easy resolutions. The story -- about a unicorn who fears she may be the last of her species on earth and sets out to find the others -- was original and offbeat when it was made and remains so decades later. Though the film is often funny and lyrical and has a tender story with a strong musical spine, younger or very sensitive kids could find a number of sequences and visuals extremely scary. A flaming red bull rampages through and threatens the most vulnerable characters. A hideous witch, along with the ghoulish creatures she holds captive, is grotesque and menacing. A ferocious harpy (a legendary flying monster) attacks and destroys. A huge tree appears to have bizarrely large breasts that threaten to crush a sympathetic magician, and a few other visuals show large cartoon breasts. The movie has been released on video and DVD several times since it was first shown in theaters in 1982. The Enchanted edition is the classic movie at its best, both visually and conceptually, with terrific bonus features updating the history and steadily powerful impact of the film.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
THE LAST UNICORN finds a graceful and gentle unicorn (Mia Farrow in a touching, thoughtful performance) concerned that she may be the last unicorn on earth. The unicorn knows that her species is immortal, so she leaves the beauty and security of her forest to travel the world and find out what happened to the others. Her odyssey sends her to strange and unfamiliar places; introduces her to an array of bizarre and wonderful characters; puts her in grave danger from some dastardly villains; and, most unexpectedly, finds her transformed into a beautiful woman who falls in love with the handsome Prince Lir (Jeff Bridges). With two trustworthy accomplices, a stumbling wizard named Schmendrick (Alan Arkin), and a bandit leader's wife named Molly Grue (Tammy Grimes), the unicorn learns much about herself, solves the mystery of the missing unicorns, and must finish with a profoundly unselfish deed.
Is it any good?
The Last Unicorn is an early example of the artistry of Japanese animation, combined with an imaginative, unique concept and terrific storytelling. It has easily maintained its place in fantasy moviemaking history. Budget limitations meant that directors Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass, author-screenwriter Peter S. Beagle, and producers Martin Starger and Michael Chase Walker had to aspire to greatness in unorthodox ways. They were able to gather a wonderful cast of character actor, including the witty Robert Klein, Christopher Lee at his most full-voiced, and Angela Lansbury at her most witchy, and Jimmy Webb wrote the stunning music, performed by the rock band America. Though it's not a movie for everyone -- certainly not for little kids who could have nightmares populated by the Red Bull and the witch -- there is enough romance for the romantic, enough philosophical reflection for the most serious students of human nature, and enough laughs and funny insights for those who love to be amused. Highly recommended, with special kudos to the Enchanted edition for its wonderful extras.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Last Unicorn is, and has always been, considered "unconventional" and "original." What are some of the things that separate it from other animated fairy tales and adventures? Though it was made decades ago, how is it still unique?
Did watching this movie inspire you to read the book from which it was adapted? Would it surprise you to know that the book is a fantasy classic and was popular with both young adults and adults? What do you think makes a book a classic?
How did the music in this film, written by Jimmy Webb and performed by the rock band America, set the tone and the tempo and enrich the story for you? Do you like or not like the fact that music sometimes tells you how to feel while you're watching a movie?
- In theaters: July 20, 1982
- On DVD or streaming: June 9, 2015
- Cast: Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow
- Directors: Arthur Rankin Jr., Jules Bass
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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