Thelma the Unicorn (2024)

Thelma the Unicorn Review

Thelma the Unicorn

Initial release: May 17, 2024
Directors: Jared Hess, Lynn Wang
Distributed by: Netflix
Based on: Thelma the Unicorn; by Aaron Blabey
Music by: John Powell
Produced by: Pam Coats

A co-directed film by Jared Hess, the director of ‘Napoleon Dynamite,’ based on a popular children’s book with peculiar background characters that are entertaining.

Netflix’s “Thelma the Unicorn,” designed to be more adult in tone than Illumination’s bland “Sing” franchise and closer to the sharpness of BoJack Horseman, does not entirely become cliché due to its own familiarity in form, but it deals generously with acid sense of humor and lots of lunatic supporting actors. Based on Aaron Blabey’s well-known 2015 children’s book, this bright colour fable follows a pony that pretends to be a magical unicorn to achieve her musical dreams. Thelma sacrifices herself and loses those who know her by changing her identity in order to pursue these dreams.

This is the first animated feature directed by Jared Hess and Lynn Wang. Earlier this year Hess received an Oscar nomination for his handcrafted animated short about a man sentenced to death called Ninety-Five Senses; however, he is still best known for his 2004 low-budget indie hit Napoleon Dynamite which he also co-wrote. He shared it with his wife Jerusha Hess who has been writing movies together with him since then (including Thelma). However, all these honors stand on another planet where talking animals share their lives with humans.

Brittany Howard formerly from Alabama Shakes voices the conflicted singing protagonist. There is some contrast between the look of chubby horse and Howard’s powerful voice that seems more suitable for soulful rock tunes rather than empty pop ones. This privileged voice of Howard makes clear no matter how Thelma looks like body-wise – she should win over audience by talents.

Notably, one major change from the source material was made when designing Thelma as it may have resembled Howard’s hair or personality traits. Although animals in this world do not seem subjugated to humans, Thelma still works hard on a farm in the company of her loyal donkey friends and band members Otis (Will Forte) and Reggie (“Napoleon Dynamite” star Jon Heder).

Their band, the Rusty Buckets, failed to qualify for a major music festival. However, this could all change when Thelma becomes an overnight sensation. As she miraculously morphs into a shiny pink fake unicorn with a carrot as its horn we know that the climax may involve some sort of disclosure about her secret. A viral video (oddly animals here have cell phones even if they walk on four legs and have no pockets) convinces Vic Diamond (Jemaine Clement), who looks like he is straight out of the 70s — think Swan in “Phantom of the Paradise,” to exploit Thelma so as to make money off her.

“Thelma the Unicorn” occasionally feels biting in a comical way by being cynically satirical about the music industry à la “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”. These scenes include Nikki Narwhal (Ally Dixon), an aquatic pop star envious of Thelma’s imminent stardom and Vic discussing aspects of showbiz: At one point, Vic reads Nikki a scathing review of her show in Las Vegas and later on he drives his boat absurdly around Los Angeles River. Having signed with Vic, Thelma is treated like an old Hollywood movie star having a fake love affair with a famous horse while also containing some jokes on artificial intelligence when it produces instantly nonsensical hit single about cud.

In a visual manner, “Thelma the Unicorn” is virtually indistinguishable from any number of other computer-animated projects with flat designs. Most of the human characters seem to be like they would fit seamlessly into a “Despicable Me” movie. Also, the animals could walk on stage in “Sing,” for all intents and purposes, as if they had been part of the show since its inception. In microscopic terms there might be subtle differences among these but to the unaided eye, what registers is an indifferent sameness in design style, textures and lighting.

Nevertheless, they suddenly introduce weird humor into their script via background players who we get to see some inside life stories about. Beware a Thelma-obsessed short man in his mid-forties who could pass off as her son; possibly a jab at Bronie sub-culture adult males that love My Little Pony? Or maybe you’ll smile at dark comedy when a girl asks Thelma’s “boyfriend” to autograph her grandmother’s ash-containing urn? All these peripheral moments (and there are many) ring more enduring than those surrounding it making it easy to recall them as compared to how memorable this core plot and its plain moral message might be. Although not as quirky as Leo was last year, Hess & Wang’s work has enough audaciousness to save it.

Watch Thelma the Unicorn For Free On Gomovies.

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