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Kennedy Unthank

Movie Review

It’s been a decade in the making. And Thelma’s band, the Rusty Buckets, thinks it finally has a chance to go big.

But as Thelma, Otis and Reggie step out to perform for the Sparklepalooza talent search, they don’t even get a note out before one judge tells them to move along.

“Look, babe, you just don’t have ‘it,’” the judge says.

She can tell just by appearance that the Rusty Buckets would never make it to stardom. Thelma’s a “forgettable farm pony.” Otis is a donkey; and Reggie, a llama. None of them have the “look” needed to achieve their dreams. So the judges don’t even bother listening to the band play.

It hits Thelma pretty hard. She mopes around the farmstead, imagining just how different her life could’ve been had she been born some fantastical creature—like a unicorn. She sticks a carrot on her forehead to roleplay the dream.

And that’s when a careless truck driver careens down the nearby road, spilling his hyper-specific cargo of pink paint and glitter all over Thelma as he passes. And when Thelma looks at her reflection in a puddle, she’s shocked at just how closely she resembles …

“I’m a unicorn! It’ll be like the old me never existed!”

People take notice, too. After all, most people know unicorns aren’t real. A crowd gathers to ask all the unicorn questions they can think of. And when asked if she can do anything magical, Thelma decides to sing.

But this time, people listen. They cheer. They ask for her autograph. They spread her image across social media and cable news. In less than a day, Thelma has a massive following.

Otis protests. “You’re just gonna let people think you’re a real unicorn now?”

If the unicorn façade is the only way Thelma and her band can get famous, then, yes, yes she will.

Positive Elements

Thelma’s deception is wrong. However, it is evident within the film’s context that Thelma wasn’t given a chance to prove herself before she looked like a unicorn. Thelma the Unicorn speaks to this unfortunate circumstance, where people and their talents are ignored simply because of how they look. The takeaway from the movie is ultimately twofold.

The first takeaway is that we shouldn’t cave to societal pressure and trade in truth for a lie. While Thelma understands that her success ultimately began because of her disguise, she eventually comes to dislike how she’s allowed herself to be pulled along by the bandwagon of what culture wants her to be. Her turn back to embracing the truth influences others in a positive way.

And as for the second point, Thelma teaches us to not judge based on looks but on merit. This somewhat reflects the truth found in John 7:24: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” This idea is accentuated through Peggy, Thelma’s blind producer. She doesn’t care what Thelma looks like—all she knows and cares about is that Thelma has real singing talent.

Otis continuously tries to get through to Thelma even as she hurts him. When Thelma chooses to embrace the lie, Otis tells her that he thinks she’s special for who she truly is. And when Thelma eventually realizes her mistake and apologizes for her actions, Otis instantly shows grace and forgives her.

Spiritual Elements

One of Thelma’s songs begins with the lyrics: “If we all come from nothing/If we all come from stars … /Why can’t it be me?” While the song is ultimately expressing Thelma’s frustration about not being given the same chances as others, a naturalistic, evolutionary worldview is still present here.

Otis unveils Dungeons & Wagons, “a completely original roleplaying game.” In the game, he describes a unicorn minifigure as a level 300 cleric, whom Thelma can only unlock to play as “after you sell your soul to a shape-shifter warlock.” During a session of the game, Otis reveals that Thelma has accidentally summoned a demon, and when Thelma’s character loses the fight to the beast, she cries out, “No, you’ve taken my soul!”

Though those lines of dialogue have a humorous vibe, one can also see how they echo the movie’s cautionary message about trading our true selves for superficial fame and glory.

Sexual Content

Four men, known as the Pool Boys, dance in unitards. At one point, the camera focuses on one man’s rear as he dances. Two of the men are shirtless, and one’s chest hair is shaped to look like a heart.

Two women appear to be the parents of a little girl, though the film doesn’t verbally confirm it. (We see her get out of a car with the two of them, and they seem to comprise a family.)

Otis’ character in D&W has a “fake nipple which doubles as a ninja star.” A carrot falls into a man’s plumber’s crack.

Violent Content

When Thelma rises to fame, she bumps previous celebrity Nikki Narwhal out of the spotlight. Because of this, Nikki attempts to crush Thelma, but she ends up electrocuting herself.

Peggy knocks some people out with her walking stick. A bundle of fireworks contains a lit stick of dynamite, and it is rashly thrown into a nearby porta-potty when discovered, causing the man inside to be tossed about when it explodes (though he is otherwise unharmed).

Otis imagines a goblin being hit in the head and fireballs crashing to the ground as he describes his D&W game. A car shoots a missile which causes another car’s engine to explode. Paid hecklers pelt Thelma with eggs. A man repeats a rumor that if the Pool Boys ever stop dancing, they’ll die.

When a girl asks a celebrity to sign her grandmother’s cremation urn, a horse accidentally crushes it and causes the girl to breathe in the ash. A girl in all black questions what color Thelma’s “unicorn” blood is.

Crude or Profane Language

Words such as “heck” and “dang” are used a handful of times. Someone is called a “moron.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Nothing explicitly, though some characters hold sparkling drinks in fancy glasses.

Other Negative Elements

A superfan of Thelma holds up adoption papers that he states will legally make him Thelma’s son, and she signs them. Later, he calls Thelma his mom, and he sews a horn onto his head as well as pink pony arms and legs onto his body.

Someone’s name is mispronounced as “Dank-Poopy-Butt.” We’re told that a narwhal is scheduled for a “seaweed colonic.” A child asks if Thelma’s manure smells like flowers. Thelma explains that she’s so nervous for a performance that she feels her heart will drop out of her rear.

Manure falls on Thelma. A horse becomes famous for a viral video in which he vomits cud. A horse deals with a nasty case of pink eye.

Following a dynamite explosion in a porta-potty, a man rolls out of the door and is seen in his underwear before he pulls up his pants. A man changes his clothes behind a towel.


Thelma the Unicorn is adapted from writer Aaron Blabey’s book of the same name. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he’s the same person who authored The Bad Guys. And with the help of Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess, Thelma is charging out of the stable and onto Netflix’s stage.

That reference to Blabey’s previous book, however, wasn’t just made in passing. There are elements of Thelma that will immediately remind viewers of that 2023 Plugged In Movie Award nominee. After all, the film does center around an animal who feels rejected by society and attempts to put on a façade in order to win the public over. Likewise, animals and humans live side-by-side and have normal conversations with one another.

But while Thelma the Unicorn mirrors The Bad Guys with regard to its positive messages, this movie does have some different content issues that families will want to think about before watching. They include suggestively dancing men clothed in tight leotards, lyrics that reference evolution and a quiet nod to a same-gender couple raising a little girl.

As for the overarching moral in both stories, it revolves around the theme of how we engage with societal stereotyping. Thelma teaches kids to judge not based on appearance but on character and merit.

Thelma herself might not be a unicorn, either as a pony or as a movie. So it’ll be up to families to determine if the positive messages she sings about outweigh that lack of proverbial unicorn dust.

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Kennedy Unthank

Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He thinks the ending of Lost “wasn’t that bad.”