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Netflix’s ‘Thelma the Unicorn’ is Heart-Warming Family Fun!

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There are so many choices when finding a movie or series to watch with younger children. Of course, there are the classics we grew up on, such as the Disney animated films or something like Shrek from DreamWorks animation. Still, there are constantly new shows and films coming out for families looking for something to watch. So, how do you choose? Check the reviews on the newest films and series, of course. Netflix has a new movie, Thelma the Unicorn, which is perfect for all ages and has an essential message for all to hear!

Based on a children’s book series of the same name by Aaron Blabey, Thelma the Unicorn is written by Jared and Jerusha Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre), and directed by Jared Hess along with Lynn Wang. This new animated film about a horse who pretends to be a unicorn features the voices of Brittany Howard (from Alabama Shakes), Will Forte, Jemaine Clement, and others in this stacked cast. If you’re looking for something to watch this week during family time, look no further than Thelma the Unicorn! Read on to discover why this might be one of my favorite animated films of the year.

[Warning: Spoilers from this film are discussed below!]

A horse named Thelma learns an important lesson about being herself

Thelma (Howard) dreams of becoming a famous musician and forever changing the lives of herself and her friends Otis the donkey (Will Forte) and Reggie the llama (Jon Heder). Together, this trio forms the band The Rusty Buckets, and their sound is some of the best around! So why are they struggling to get noticed for their incredible music? 

Thelma the Unicorn and Otis
Otis (Will Forte) and Thelma (Brittany Howard). Thelma the Unicorn (Netflix).

Thelma might argue that it’s because they are so plain-looking, coming from a typical farm in the middle of nowhere; however, humiliating herself on stage during a contest definitely didn’t help. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, fate throws Thelma a bone, well, more so some paint and glitter. As a result of a discombobulated truck driver, a rather large pothole, and a shapely vegetable, the down-on-her-luck horse becomes a beautiful unicorn! With her new appearance, the entire world is watching, waiting for Thelma to grace everyone with her spectacular music. 

But fame comes with a price, as Thelma will learn intimately throughout her film. With other stars, such as Mikki Narwhal (Ally Dixon), mad at her talent and sudden stardom, there’s always trouble around every corner. Can Thelma learn to navigate the high-stakes world of being a rockstar? Or will she fall victim to Vic Diamond (Jemaine Clement), a sleazy talent agent who’s out to make a quick buck from the shiny pink singing wonder? And, of course, can Thelma remain true to herself, or will she get lost in the fame? You’ll have to watch Thelma the Unicorn to find out!

Brittany Howard’s acting and singing brings Thelma the Unicorn to life

I had previously known of Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes, having listened to most of their work for quite a long time. Howard’s voice is one of a kind in so many ways, reminiscent of blues and soul, which I’ve always connected with. I also had no idea she was cast in this movie, which was a pleasant surprise. A common worry when films cast a singer in either a voice or acting role is that while they are fantastic at singing, they might be able to act. It might be harsh to say, but we all have someone who has crossed the threshold from singing to acting, and it didn’t go nearly as well as the casting director may have hoped.

That being said, Brittany Howard was the right choice to voice Thelma. Her voice has the perfect gravelly feel for the singing parts, of which there are quite a few. The music is beyond catchy, and the soul Howard gives it is something magical. Her vocal acting is also impressive, with Thelma feeling vibrant and alive, thanks to Howard. She’s just as expressive as the other voice actors in the film, standing as a shining star amongst those in Thelma the Unicorn.

Thelma the Unicorn
Thelma (Brittany Howard). Thelma the Unicorn (Netflix).

While she leads the cast, everyone in the film helps create a fantastic movie with many unique characters. Highlights are Otis, her lovable sidekick who would do anything to help his friend achieve her goals, and Peggy (Maliaka Mitchell), the blind record producer who discovers Thelma initially and believes in her sound. Together, these three make this film a must-see children’s film in my book.

Through story and song, this family friendly animated film is all about being true to yourself

I was most surprised by Thelma the Unicorn’s music, which goes way harder than it has any right to. The music and lyrics got stuck in my head, partially due to Brittany Howard’s heavenly voice, precisely what songs from a children’s film should do. I found myself singing and humming to myself days later, a good sign that those behind the film did something right regarding the music.

The story is also one that everyone should watch. At many points in our lives, we lose ourselves in the pursuit of acceptance, which tends to begin at a young age. Humans want to be accepted by their peers, loved ones, and society. If we don’t have a good sense of ourselves, we can quickly become lost and distracted, twisting ourselves into people we may not even recognize. This is the exact journey that Thelma goes on, taking on an entirely different persona to make it big with her music.

Many people experience something similar to Thelma’s journey at some point in their lives, but the film shows how to come out the other side whole. The idea is that we have to return to who we are and what is genuine to ourselves. Thelma becomes distracted by the newfound love from adoring fans, conflating that with being recognized for her talent, which is understandable. But she eventually returns to her roots and who she truly is, becoming whole with herself once more and gaining love in the right way.

This is why families of all ages and stages should check out this film. As a 30-year-old gay man, I could take some of what Thelma the Unicorn is preaching and use it in my own life. There are moments when I’m also not genuine with myself because I want to be accepted by others. These moments are universal at one point or another and not something that we should be ashamed of. Instead, like Thelma, we have to learn to overcome them. Use these moments as a chance to grow back to what is true to ourselves and find love and acceptance through that. So, if I can gather that take away from the film, everyone else can too.

Thelma the Unicorn should be your next Netflix film for family movie night

With so many choices, deciding what you should watch next as a family is hard. My family and I struggle with this every Friday as we sit down with our pizza, but choosing Thelma the Unicorn should be a no-brainer. Sure, this isn’t an award-winning animated film; you won’t see it at The Academy Awards. The animation is rather basic, but that’s not why you should watch this film.

With a great story, fantastic songs, and a cast that gives it their all to bring this film to life, Thelma the Unicorn deserves a place in your family and heart.

Thelma the Unicorn is currently streaming on Netflix. Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on checking out this movie soon!

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

Brian Kitson has 358 posts and counting. See all posts by Brian Kitson