ORION AND THE DARK
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Paul Walter Hauser, Colin Hanks, Mia Akemi Brown, Ike Barinholtz, Nat Faxon, Golda Rosheuvel, Natasia Demetriou, Aparna Nancherla, and Matt Dellapina
Director: Sean Charmatz
Orion and the Dark gave me exactly what I’ve been missing from Pixar films the past few years, plus a welcome but surprising existential edge courtesy of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. The film presents genuinely weighty subject matters, beautifully animated scenes, and plenty of jokes that are suitable for all ages yet best understood by adults, which I believe are the fundamental ingredients for a grown-up’s enjoyment of a children’s film. My only criticism would be that I wished it leaned into the more unique, hand-drawn style of animation that complements many of the scenes.
It’s fun seeing writer Charlie Kaufman bring a healthy dose of nihilism to a kid’s movie, but his script is the only thing Orion and the Dark has going for it. The animation style is lifeless, Jacob Tremblay makes for a forgettable lead, and outside of a mediocre Seth Rogen impression, Paul Walter Hauser doesn’t bring much to the character of darkness. It’s nice to see a children’s flick try to tackle heavy subjects like panic disorders and existential dread, but it never takes those ideas far enough. Orion certainly had potential, but I think it needed more time in the oven.