You may not know Charlie Kaufman by name, but you’ve likely seen some of his mind-bending movies. I’m talking about flicks like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where Jim Carrey tries to erase the memory of a past love, or Being John Malkovich, where characters literally step into the actor’s head. Wild stuff, right? Kaufman’s always been into bending reality and digging into the messy tangles of the human mind. Heavy stuff, but kind of awesome too.
So when I heard he was taking a crack at a family-friendly animated movie called Orion and the Dark, I’ll admit I was curious. And a little skeptical. Could Kaufman really contain his affinity for the bizarre and cerebral in a kids’ movie? Turns out, he found a way to make it work.
See, Orion and the Dark is adapted from a simple picture book for little tykes. It’s about a boy named Orion who’s afraid of, well, pretty much everything, but especially the dark. Then one night the actual character of Dark shows up in his room, takes him on a wild ride to meet his quirky nighttime friends like Dreams and Quiet. You know, kind of like the emotions in Inside Out, but weirder. Along the way, Orion starts to make peace with his fears.
Now Kaufman didn’t direct this flick, but as the screenwriter you can totally sense his vibe. Orion feels like a proto-Kaufman protagonist, an anxious kid obsessed with death and philosophy. And the story retains Kaufman’s artsy, mind-bending edge while still being fun and accessible for kids. It’s a neat balancing act, I’ve gotta say.
So in short: it’s a Charlie Kaufman joint that parents can actually feel good about putting on for family movie night. And that alone makes it worth a peek.
Buckling Up For Orion’s Wild Ride
Our main man Orion is an anxious mess. This 11-year-old kid’s mind is like a hamster on a wheel, endlessly worrying about all the things that could go wrong. Talking to his crush at school? Terrifying. Messing up during kickball at recess? Sheer horror. And don’t even get him started on things like killer clowns hiding in gutters. Sweet dreams, right?
But the number one thing that flips Orion’s wig is – you guessed it – the dark. So you can imagine his reaction when one night, an ominous hooded figure named Dark materializes in his bedroom. This hulking personification of darkness looks like something out of a nightmare. Orion freaks out, but Dark is surprisingly chill. He’s tired of the kid’s irrational fears harshing his mellow.
Dark decides the only way Orion will get over his phobia is if he learns more about the dark. So he whisks a very reluctant Orion out the window and into the night sky. It’s time for a crash course in All Things Darkness!
Their first stops are introductions with Dark’s night crew: the sandman-like Sleep, a creepy presence named Unexplained Noises, a starred angel named Dreams, and more. It’s like the cast of characters in Inside Out, running the show when the sun goes down. Each one represents a different aspect of nighttime. Through funny hijinks and misadventures with Dark’s cohorts, Orion starts to grasp that the dark isn’t so scary after all.
But Orion’s not totally convinced. His interventions keep causing problems for Dark and the gang. Annoyed, Dark decides desperate times call for desperate measures. He takes Orion to meet his flashy arch-nemesis Light, who’s beloved by all. Seeing his bubbly polar opposite in action might just be the key to helping fearful Orion embrace the dark, shadows and all.
Buckle up, because Orion’s about to go on a wild ride outside his comfort zone. But can this anxious kid make peace with the dark before Dawn breaks?
Digging Into Orion’s Deeper Meanings
At its glowing heart, Orion and the Dark is a movie about facing fears. I mean, that much is obvious from the title alone. We’ve got Orion, an embodiment of anxiety coming to grips with the big bully known as Darkness. It’s a kid-friendly adventure about understanding the unknown in your closet and under your bed so it doesn’t seem so scary anymore.
But because this is Charlie Kaufman we’re dealing with here, you know there have gotta be some deeper layers. And there definitely are.
See, Orion isn’t just afraid of killer clowns and other silly stuff. He’s an introspective little dude who thinks and obsesses over bigger life questions, like mortality and the meaning of existence. Heavy, heady topics Kaufman clearly couldn’t resist probing, even in a family flick. There are moments where Orion monologues about the terror of “nothingness” that feel straight out of Kaufman’s own worried mind.
So while the core “face your fears” message resonates for kids, there’s also plenty here for teens and adults. Orion and the Dark explores existential dread with humor and humanity. And it comments on the nature of storytelling itself.
There’s cool framing where we see grown-up Orion many years later telling his childhood adventure to his own daughter as a bedtime tale. It’s used cleverly to have some meta fun commenting on how stories get told, poking at some animated movie tropes along the way. Pretty smart for a so-called kids’ movie!
Visually, Orion pops off the screen with the look of a living, breathing storybook. The computer animation mimics textured, colorful drawings you just want to reach out and touch. And it’s populated by a cast of endearing weirdos, like the chloroform-wielding sleep fairy and a goddess of dreams who speaks in song lyrics. Their offbeat humor meshes nicely with Kaufman’s signature wit.
One thing I admire is how the movie blends silly antics your 5-year-old will eat up with subtle moments of emotional maturity beyond some adult stories. It jumps smoothly between kid hijinks and hushed, heartfelt talks under the Northern Lights. Orion and Dark’s burgeoning friendship develops real nuance.
So all told, Orion and the Dark offers a little something for everyone. Kids get a fabulous fantastical adventure about facing fears. Adults get Charlie Kaufman’s penetrating perspective layered in. And the movie itself urges us to embrace life’s light and dark in equal measure. Pretty clever indeed!
A Movie Night For The Whole Family
When it comes to keeping both kids and parents happy on family movie night, it’s not easy to please every generation. Let’s be honest, a lot of family flicks feel like they’re made strictly for the juice box crowd. And if the kids tune out, good luck keeping mom and dad awake.
Luckily, Orion and the Dark pulls off a delicate balancing act. It’s bursting with visual wizardry, talking animals, and fart jokes perfectly tailored for the elementary school set. My inner 8-year-old was captivated seeing Orion zoom through purple skies on the back of a dragon-like Dark. Take that, bedtime!
But Kaufman sneaks in plenty to keep teens and parents invested too. There are witty gags and references to his past films slipped in everywhere, like little inside jokes just for the veteran fans. And Orion’s charming neuroses feel plucked straight from Kaufman’s own psyche, making him easily relatable for those of us who’ve done some growing up.
So if you’re looking for a family movie night that actually keeps every generation engaged, look no further. Orion and the Dark uses Kaufman’s signature smarts to launch an all-ages adventure filled with laughs. Kids can follow along Orion’s journey to be braver, while parents enjoy revisiting their own childhood anxieties from a wiser place. It’s a blast no matter which side of puberty you’re on!
Two Glowing Thumbs Up!
So how does Orion and the Dark stack up when you factor in both the kiddie demographic and Kaufman’s cerebral reputation? In my book, it scores glowing points on both fronts.
As a family film, it delivers imagination in spades thanks to otherworldly characters brought to life with vibrant storybook visuals. The adventure moves briskly from one misadventure to the next, keeping short attention spans rapt. And the ultimate message about facing fears feels tailor-made for little ones heading to bed with their own anxious minds racing. Orion lands as an empathetic and age-appropriate hero kids should have no trouble connecting with.
At the same time, the script retains enough of Kaufman’s flair for existential weirdness to satisfy arthouse tastes. Fans will grin picking up on his trademark humor and recurring motifs. And he gifts the story sensitivity and emotional maturity often missing from bigger animated flicks. Grown-ups get both nostalgia and nuance.
Honestly, Orion and the Dark is that rare family watch likely to please everyone gathered around the couch, from the kindergartner to the high schooler to dear old mom and dad. It pulls off the delicate feat of operating as both a fantastic kids’ fantasy and a recognizable Charlie Kaufman experience filled with humanity. Two glowing thumbs up all around!
Orion and the Dark
Orion and the Dark beautifully balances childhood wonder and adult introspection. Charlie Kaufman injects the family-friendly story with his signature smarts, while director Sean Charmatz brings its imaginative world to colorful life. Sweet yet nuanced, it's a small film with mammoth cross-generational appeal.
- Imaginative visuals and character design with a storybook aesthetic
- Whimsical adventure balanced with emotional depth
- Strong themes of overcoming childhood fears
- Script brings signature Charlie Kaufman quirkiness/intelligence
- Meta elements commenting cleverly on storytelling
- Multi-generational appeal entertaining both kids and adults
- Animation style not overly distinctive
- Pacing drags at times during third act
- Scope feels small for an animated feature