Orion and the Dark Review: DreamWorks and Netflix’s Unexpected Gem

Movie Bunker Score:
3/5

Orion and the Dark

Release: 2024-02-02Genre: AnimationDuration: 93 minsBudget: $ 0
Overview

A boy with an active imagination faces his fears on an unforgettable journey through the night with his new friend: a giant, smiling creature named Dark.

Orion and the Dark

Release: 2024-02-02Genre: AnimationDuration: 93 minsBudget: $ 0
Overview

A boy with an active imagination faces his fears on an unforgettable journey through the night with his new friend: a giant, smiling creature named Dark.

DreamWorks and Netflix’s latest offering, “Orion and the Dark,” surprisingly outshines recent Pixar releases by seamlessly adopting the heartwarming approach characteristic of Pixar classics like “Inside Out” and “Toy Story.” This animated feature not only borrows heavily from the Pixar playbook but also cleverly references its predecessor, “Toy Story,” in its opening scenes. However, unlike many imitators, “Orion and the Dark” doesn’t merely replicate Pixar’s formula; instead, it builds upon it, resulting in a film that strikes familiar chords while offering a fresh perspective. With its captivating character design, engaging dialogue, and uplifting message, “Orion and the Dark” emerges as an unexpected delight among Netflix originals early in the year.

One doesn’t need prior knowledge of Charlie Kaufman’s pedigree, known for his unconventional storytelling in films like “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich,” to recognize the distinctiveness of the script in “Orion and the Dark.” From the outset, the film takes a slightly unconventional approach for a family movie, incorporating references to literary figures such as David Foster Wallace and Saul Bass. In a cleverly crafted prologue, Kaufman, along with first-time director Sean Charmatz, introduces us to Orion, a young boy portrayed by Jacob Tremblay, who harbors an irrational fear of everything, with the dark looming as his greatest dread.

One fateful night, Orion encounters the personification of his fear—the Dark, voiced excellently by Paul Walter Hauser. Hauser’s nuanced performance adds depth to the character, portraying the Dark’s journey from geniality to vulnerability with finesse. As Orion navigates his fear, he discovers that the Dark shares his own insecurities, highlighting the universal theme of acceptance and understanding.

The Dark takes Orion on a whirlwind journey, introducing him to various nocturnal elements like Sweet Dreams, Sleep, Unexplained Noises, Insomnia, and Quiet, reminiscent of the ensemble dynamics in “Inside Out.” However, “Orion and the Dark” maintains its distinct identity, forging its path rather than mimicking its predecessors.

Kaufman’s signature storytelling style shines through as the film unfolds, incorporating a story within a story as an adult Orion (voiced by Colin Hanks) recounts his encounter with the Dark to his daughter. This narrative layer adds complexity, inviting viewers to ponder the nature of reality and imagination.

While “Orion and the Dark” excels in many aspects, it’s not without minor flaws, including repetitive scenes and occasional missteps in music selection. Additionally, the abundance of ideas in the film’s latter half may overwhelm some viewers. Nonetheless, these shortcomings pale in comparison to the film’s overall charm and inventiveness.

“Orion and the Dark” is now available for streaming on Netflix, offering a refreshing take on the animated genre that will captivate audiences of all ages.

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