Thelma the Unicorn Movie Review: A reasonably effective, even if predictable pony tale

Thelma the Unicorn Movie Review: A reasonably effective, even if predictable pony tale

The film tries to walk a tightrope between child-friendliness and mature themes. The writers, Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess, achieve this to varying degrees of success
Thelma The Unicorn(2.5 / 5)

The new Netflix film, Thelma the Unicorn, is an animated film based on a children's story of the same name by Aaron Blabey. And like most other children's stories, it possesses layers of meaning that can resonate with adults as well. The film's core message of overcoming adversity is timeless, but the narrative unfolds predictably. The story of a pony, who (Brittany Howard) gets bullied in a talent show and overcomes the obstacles to realise her dream of becoming a music hotshot, is your quintessential underdog tale. The setting, the nature of obstacles, and the support system of Thelma may all feel new, but the building blocks of the story and the character arcs feel familiar. There is the initial humiliation that the protagonist faces, followed by her unwavering spirit to overcome any and all challenges, the valuable lessons she learns, and of course, the big triumph. Thelma’s quest to realise her desire for musical recognition through a talent event called SparklePalooza results in the kind of uplifting stage-show end we have seen and experienced in many such films.

Director: Jared Hess

Voice cast: Brittany Howard, Will Forte, Jemaine Clement, Jon Heder, Zach Galifianakis

Streamer: Netflix

And yet, despite catering to children, Thelma the Unicorn possesses many nuances in its screenplay, even if the stakes aren’t exactly too high. The most interesting character is Jemaine Clement’s talent agent, Vic Diamond, who gets some of the most thoughtful, quirkiest lines in the film. The character also has a layer of complexity that sets him apart from the overall simplistic tone of the film. For us, it is quite a stimulating exercise to discover Vic’s elaborate and manipulative scheme to exploit Thelma’s singular talent. The character represents the darker side of the music industry, and his language and behaviour befit an agent who prioritises fame and fortune over artistic development.

And yet, I wondered if such a character belonged in a film that’s meant to be all optimistic and heartwarming. The PG rating for rude dialogue is relevant here. You may view some lines in the film, such as “A phoney pony,” as mild insults, but the dialogues are delivered in such a way that makes them more harsh than playful. The film does on occasion try to tone down intensity. In one scene, Edi Patterson’s rival talent agent Megan heckles Thelma from behind, and the pony retorts to it, saying, “You scared the jellybeans out of me!” Overall, it’s a moderately engaging film, provided you sign up for a rather predictable film that ticks the usual boxes.

Cinema Express