The Little Unicorn (1998) / Fantasy-Adventure
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably G, suitable for all audiences
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Brittney Bomann, David Warner, George Hamilton, Joe Penny, Emma Samms, Christopher Atkins
Director: Paul Matthews
Screenplay: Paul Matthews
Review published March 6, 2002
The Little Unicorn proves that just because a film may be suitable for the entire family, doesn't make it worth watching. I suppose anyone looking at a film nowadays and sees the names of 80s TV stars like Emma Samms ("Dynasty", "The Colbys"), Christopher Atkins (The Blue Lagoon, The Pirate Movie), and Joe Penny (The Prophet's Game, Bloody Birthday), along with long-forgotten stars like David Warner (Star Trek VI, TMNT II) and George Hamilton (Hollywood Ending, Love at First Bite), should not expect a great production anyway. Unfortunately, their names still manage to lend a smidgeon of credibility to what is a wasteland of original ideas and some of the most poorly written dialogue I've seen in many a movie. I would be astonished if this script took longer than a week to make since conception.
Brittney Bomann (Desert of Death, Beings) plays Polly Regan, the same kind of bratty young girl that you've seen a hundred times before in children's films. You know, the one who starts off hating everyone but learns how much she truly cares by the end. She is an orphan living under the care of her grandfather (Warner) at his farm, and also looked after her aunt (Samms). Polly is having a rough time because her favorite mare is dying due to a combination of old age and the fact that she is about to give birth to a foal. Grandpa appeases Polly by concocting some story about "horse heaven," where horses are looked after by a unicorn. Polly prays that this heavenly unicorn can save the mare's life and the foal, but alas, it's too late. They do manage to save the foal, but it ends up being a glowing, pixie-dust covered young unicorn. Soon, a snooping journalist catches wind of the unicorn's existence, and after the article is published, groups of self-serving opportunists come out of the woodworks to exploit the magical creature, including a washed-up magician (Hamilton) and a sadistic circus owner (Penny).
The Little Unicorn plays like a low-budget rip-off of E.T., complete with the "ride across the moon" escape. Such plagiarism may be lost among the younger set, but this story still makes for paltry entertainment, even on that level. This is the sorriest unicorn I've ever seen in a film, starting off looking like a CGI version of Pokey, then later a real horse with a cotton candy cone-holder glued on its head. This unicorn isn't really an impressive horse, much less a perfect creature of magic.
I'm not altogether sure if anyone involved in this production understands the mythology behind unicorns at all. Joe Penny plays the cranky circus owner, who apparently sees unicorns as the fiercest, most intimidating creature on earth, worthy of making lions, elephants and bears bow to submission. George Hamilton plays the struggling magician, yet somehow believes he can do actual magic, because he wants to saw off the uni's horn to get his back. Both men have practically useless sidekicks to help them in their quest, but both mostly get in the way. I suppose torturing unicorns must be a lonely job, thus requiring companionship while stalking their prey.
Christopher Atkins plays Emma Samms policeman boyfriend, but doesn't make much of either role throughout the movie. Invaders run rampant throughout the farm, even with him there, and at no time does he exert even the slightest interest in trying to preserve peace, order, or prevention of theft around the grounds. Considering how bitchy his girlfriend is, one would think he would do his best to protect her family. Yet, he spends much of his time chauffeuring Samms around, or giving her goo-goo eyes.
**SPOILER** There is a "happy" ending, but after watching this, I am uncertain how happy it truly is. None of the unicorn's pursuers learn any lessons as to why their behavior is bad, and in fact, criminal. We watch as Spike, the idiotic nickname the kids have dubbed it, rides off into the sky until it explodes into a hundred bits. I was expecting blood and chunks of horse flesh to rain down upon the rapt spectators, but remembered this was a kids film. It's a shame, as this as rules out my personal pick for a happy ending, where the unicorn gores every character in the film with his horn in a bloodbath of euphoric retribution.
Unless you are a young child who is obsessed with unicorns, there is just nothing here at all to recommend. The Little Unicorn is as derivative as they come, with an undercurrent of ugliness that seems out-of-place in what should be a heartwarming tale. It's dreadfully boring and noisy, and about the longest 80 minutes you could spend doing just about anything. Writer-director Paul Matthews followed this up with another similar film, The Last Leprechaun, with much of the same cast. I'll probably never review it, since I've already dubbed Unicorn with the alternate title, "THE LAST PAUL MATTHEWS FILM I'LL EVER SEE."
©2002 Vince Leo