As part of the movie tour, I recently had the opportunity to see The Last Unicorn on the big screen. I went with great excitement and mild trepidation—I have adored this film (and the book on which it was based) since I was eight years old, but hadn’t seen the film for years and wasn’t sure that approaching-middle-age me would still enjoy the film that wide-eyed-8-year-old me loved so much.
I needn’t have worried. While I am old enough to notice that the animation is less than stellar and that a couple of the songs have an unfortunately whiny quality, the movie remains completely enchanting, and in fact enchanted me on whole new levels.
The Last Unicorn deals with a unicorn who is told that she is the last unicorn left in the world. She decides to find out if this is true and to find the others, if they are still alive. In her journey, she is joined by Schmendrick, the earnestly incompetent magician, and Molly Grue, a world-worn woman who has waited all her life to see a unicorn.
Schmendrick and Molly have their own journeys to pursue, as well, but all their paths lead to King Haggard, his Red Bull (not the drink), and (perhaps most significantly for the unicorn) his son, Prince Lir. The unicorn does eventually find and free the other unicorns, but at a price that renders her forever different from her fellows.
I still love the movie. The story (with the exception of a couple of brief “wait, what?” detours that are straight from the book) is strong, cohesive, and well-developed. The script retains the lyrical yet concise language that I loved in the book. The many moments making up The Last Unicorn still capture the emotions they’re meant to capture. The ending is a marvelously interwoven balance of heartbreak and triumph.
The animation suffers under modern scrutiny, but it still works—it’s reminiscent of a medieval tapestry. The music likewise suffers a bit. The sound quality fails to amaze, and a couple of the songs have an unfortunately whiny quality and were trying a little too hard to rhyme. Other tunes, though, still work and complement the film very well.
If you have the chance, see this movie on the big screen as part of the movie tour. Much as I enjoyed seeing the movie, being able to meet and speak with Peter S. Beagle (author of book and screenplay) before the showing made the evening unforgettable.
Personal bias notwithstanding, I really think The Last Unicorn is worth seeing, more than once. On the whole, it stands up well to the test of time and remains a magical viewing experience.
Release Date: November 19, 1982 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (a skeleton gets sloshed, some social drinking)
Language: 1 (a couple of mild swears, one use of deity)
Nudity: 1 (the harpy has visible breasts, “Lady Amalthea” is nude when first transformed into a human (though nothing is visible))
Sexuality: 1 (an amorous tree)
Violence: 2 (some combat, three deaths (not gory), the Red Bull can be pretty scary)