Thelma the Unicorn (2024) Movie Review – A colourful and silly movie that doesn’t always hit the high notes

A colourful and silly movie that doesn’t always hit the high notes

What is it about animals and their longing to hit the big time? Such movies as Hop, Rock Dog, and Sing have featured one anthropomorphised creature or another with a desire to achieve musical stardom.

And now we have Thelma the Unicorn, a new animated comedy based on the picture book of the same name from director Jared Hess (Napolean Dynamite). It tells the story of a pony named Thelma (Brittany Howard) who wants to rock the stage at an event called ‘Sparklepalooza’ with her band The Rusty Buckets. But her dreams of stardom are shattered when her less-than-glamorous appearance means she’s not taken seriously at the audition. 

Fortunately, Thelma’s luck changes when a van carrying pink paint and glitter swerves near her farm and sends the paint and the sparkly stuff hurtling all over her. Shortly after her accidental makeover, she is spotted by a passing family who think she’s a mythical unicorn. Thelma decides not to tell them her real identity and continues with the lie when others stop at the farm to get a good look at her. 

After a song Thelma sings to her onlookers goes viral, she is head-hunted by a slimy talent agent named Vic Diamond (Jemaine Clement) who wants to make his fortune from her success. Thelma gets swept up in his plans and enjoys her chance at fame, but this is at the expense of her band who are pushed aside when she becomes a solo act. 

Of course, being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Thelma finally achieves her dream of being a rock star but she begins to feel uneasy when she realizes her fans aren’t seeing who she really is. She then starts to question the direction her life is going in and whether it’s worth losing her sense of identity for the chance at fame. This is surely something many celebrities have been forced to consider during their time in the spotlight.

“Being yourself” is the overarching theme of the film. It’s a message we all need to take to heart and not just the younger viewers tuning into Thelma’s story. It’s a familiar lesson that has been at the centre of many a children’s film over the years but as it’s such an important message, familiarity doesn’t have to breed contempt. 

Thelma the Unicorn is a brightly-coloured film with excellent animation and a talented voice cast, including Will Forte, Jon Heda, and the aforementioned Brittany Howard. Its extreme silliness will provide lots of gigglesome moments for kids and their parents – special mention has to go to the German character who becomes so enamoured by Thelma that he turns himself into a unicorn – and the plot moves along at a fast enough pace so the film never becomes boring. 

These positives make the film worth watching but – as the famous saying goes – all that glitters is not gold! While Thelma the Unicorn is very funny at times, it’s important to note that some of the jokes and visual humour might be a little unsuitable for younger children.

Take the shirtless pool dancers, for example, who look out of place in a children’s film. They don’t gyrate like the Chippendales, thank goodness. But their presence is still a little risque! We’re also told they might die if they stop dancing, a statement that is more ghoulish than comical. 

My other quibble is the film’s dialogue. While it’s often sharp and funny, there are some lines that are bound to go over the heads of the junior audience. Admittedly, they’ll be too busy laughing at the slapstick comedy to dwell on the trickier words the film throws out. But it’s a worrying trend that the makers of kids’ films often seem to forget the audience they’re writing for. 

But regardless of these issues, Thelma the Unicorn is still an enjoyable film. The performances are great, the musical moments are rousing, and the quirky humour is occasionally rib-tickling. There are a handful of questionable moments that bring down the review score but most kids will be tickled pink by this one. 

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  • Verdict - 6.5/10

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