There really is no accounting for taste, is there? I know there are some that have looked at the titles I enjoy and thought, “What the heck is wrong with this person?” I point out this immutable truth only as a disclaimer for what is about to follow. In the end, I will remind myself that such sentiments work both ways.
What do you get when you combine a star-studded cast (truly), with Japanese animation and hippie culture, and toss the music of the band America into the mix? You get 1982’s The Last Unicorn. Let that thought sink in for a moment. . . .
If you are familiar with the reviews done by The Legionnaire, you may notice that so far I am not sticking to my tried and true formula. Usually, at this point I have begun my plot synopsis. I do not feel like doing so with my review of The Last Unicorn. I could have been watching one of the greatest regular season baseball games of all time last night. Instead, I let my petty distaste for the Chicago White Sox lead me into the insanity that is this movie. I suppose I deserve it.
So, the Last Unicorn (voiced by Mia Farrow) in The Last Unicorn (I am past caring about redundancies) does not understand how she is the final representative of her kind. You would think that anything with sentience, and magical powers to boot, would have a better sense of where the rest of her people had gone. Had she been napping for the past few years? Was she in unicorn prison? Maybe she was on a solo mission for unicorn-NASA and just returned to Earth? Wait, this last one would not work because one might then suppose that there would be a unicorn mission control giving her the latest unicorn news. The prison scenario is out, too, because then there would be unicorn guards and their sudden disappearance would be suspicious. So, let us settle on napping. At any rate, she just appears at the beginning wondering where the rest of the unicorns have gone. Nobody she encounters seems to be a help. You would think a talking butterfly (voiced by Robert Klein), the first being she meets, might be of some assistance, no? Yet, like seemingly everyone else in this God forsaken world, it talks in riddles. Resignedly, she starts walking, and walking, and walking, and walking, and walking, and walking, and walking, and walking. . . .
At one point in the wanderings of The Last Unicorn, she encounters some sort of traveling circus. . . ? It is run by Mommy Fortuna (voiced by Angela Lansbury), and she uses magic to dupe the rubes into thinking they are seeing enchanted creatures. Turns out, though, that she actually has two such beings. One is the unicorn, which she captures and puts in a cage. The other is a harpy (voiced by Keenan Wynn). It is a vulture-like creature with three breasts, and it is bad because the script says so. When the unicorn breaks free, with the help of an inept magician in Fortuna’s employ named Schmendrick (voiced by Alan Arkin), she decides to let the harpy loose too because of some unwritten rule where magical beasts help each other. And yet, what does the harpy try to do immediately upon slipping its bonds? It attacks the unicorn and Schmendrick. No worries, though, because the harpy cannot see you if you calmly walk away, which they do.
I suppose I should have mentioned when talking about the exchange between the butterfly and The Last Unicorn that the humanoid insect did allude to a red bull (mythical animal, not the energy drink) that drove the unicorns off, or something. Schmendrick seems to know where this fiery bovine is, and he agrees to accompany her because why not? The vaguely thought-out notion is that by finding the red bull, they will locate the other unicorns. Along the way they pick up another straggler from a band of outlaws in the woods, a cook named Molly Grue (voiced by Tammy Grimes). Despite the stated rule that humans cannot immediately recognize a unicorn, Molly is brought to tears when she sees the unicorn and decides to make the duo a trio.
As I have been meandering through various events in The Last Unicorn with no real purpose other than to give you brief vignettes of parts I found particularly absurd, there is the tiniest moment where it connects with my Faith. When they first encounter the red bull, all the unicorn can do is run from it back and forth for a while. Molly begs Schmendrick to do something, but up until this point his conjuring skills have been suspect. In desperation, he summons whatever nonsense practitioners of magic do, flings his arms in the air, and asks the magic to do whatever it wills. This act turns the unicorn into a human, for some reason, about whom the charging bull apparently does not care. So often, we want God to do our will, as if it is us and not Him that is in charge. This is not to say that God never cooperates with us. Prayer is effective, but it is more so for us than for God. A lot of times when God answers our prayers, and He always does, it happens in a way we either do not expect or recognize. It is difficult for many when this happens, particularly to see the wisdom of what has occurred. But God truly knows best. My approval of this film begins and ends with this scene. Ultimately, there is no point to the unicorn being turned into a human, but it was neat to see a character call upon a higher power to be an instrument of its will.
Okay, so, blah, blah, blah, The Last Unicorn and company make it to the castle where the red bull resides. Its owner, King Haggard (voiced by Christopher Lee), controls the red bull and drove all the unicorns into the sea. His son, Prince Lir (voiced by Jeff Bridges), falls in love with the human form of the unicorn, and she goes by Amalthea. Just picked that name out of the blue. There are a bunch of songs, Amalthea is turned back into a unicorn, the red bull is driven into the sea, King Haggard dies when the castle collapses, and the unicorns go away.
The Last Unicorn is another one of those movies that had me banging me head on the table in front of me. I did not do any research on this, but if Harry Potter stole the image for the tapestry in Gryffindor’s common room from The Last Unicorn, I might have to change my New Year’s Eve plans. Anyway, the sooner I can get the image of Schmendrick essentially humping a tree out of my head, the better. If the rest of this review did not serve as enough of a warning, hopefully that last thought will.