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|Too Bad About the Songs,
The Last Unicorn (video)
with the voices of
Alan Arkin, Tammy Grimes,
Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges,
Christopher Lee, more
| This is, overall, an excellent though, necessarily,
quite simplified film of Peter Beagle's wonderful book.
The animation is classic Japanese/anime style, which bothers some people
but seems quite appropriate to me.
The simplifications to the storyline mostly involve the town of Hagsgate
and the outlaw band of Captain Cully, the Robin Hood wannabe "outlaw", but
also unfortunately involve the omission of the wonderful songs that Beagle
wrote and included as part of the text, which are replaced by (of all things)
songs by Jimmie Webb, sung by America. (I would have awarded five stars,
not four, if the soundtrack had included some or all of Beagle's original
According to a story that sources tell me has been confirmed by the author,
Christopher Lee (who supplied the voice for King Haggard) showed up for the
recording sessions armed with his own copy of the book, with several places
marked to indicate things that must not, in his opinion, be omitted. All
of the voices are excellently chosen -- Mia Farrow does the Unicorn/Lady
Amalthea very well, indeed, Alan Arkin is wonderful as the slightly befuddled
semi-competent wizard, Schmendrick, Christopher Lee gives the perfect sad,
weary and wistful reading to King Haggard, and Robert Klein is absolutely
marvellous as the Butterfly.
This is a story of inevitability and of the ending of things and of immortality
and mortality; of heroism and villainy and of love and joy and sorrow and
regret and of finding and of loss.
The Unicorn must discover what it is to be human and through that rediscover
what it is to be a unicorn, so that she can face and overcome the terrifying
Red Bull, which no unicorn can overcome. To win the love of a beautiful maiden,
King Haggard's son Prince Lir (Jeff Bridges) must become a hero in order
to understand that all things have their destinies and their destined endings.
And Schmendrick must learn that even a wizard needs more than merely magic
to be a whole person, no matter how fiercely he desires magic...
The whole story is about destinies and quests and fulfillments -- "Heroes
know that things must happen when it is time for them to happen. A quest
may not simply be abandoned; unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but
not forever; a happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story,"
says Prince Lir.
Wonderful and sad, uplifting and (just a little, just enough) scary, romantic
and funny, this is a film for people of any age who have not forgotten the
magic of the words "Once upon a time..."