This morning, as I had the day to myself due to the wifey having a girl’s day with her friend, I was initially at a loss for what to do. Then, as I took the dog potty, I was alerted to the fact that the movie I’d seen the trailer for on Netflix, Orion and the Dark, had been written by Charlie Kaufman of all people. This seems like as good a way to spend my Saturday afternoon as any, I thought to myself. The movie, though, didn’t quite gel like I’d hoped it would. I was going along well enough with it in the early stages, but it sort of goes off the rails as Kaufman gets meta with it, layering what could have been a cute, personal story. At the end, I said aloud “that‘s the ending???” Because I was confused as to why we’d have an ending where you peel back layer after layer without ever fully fleshing out a single one.
But, that disappointment led me to YouTube to see if anybody else was discussing it yet there, and I stumbled across a YouTube kids video with two guys reading the picture book upon which the movie was based aloud. The one guy stopped every so often to be downright obnoxious, in a way that I don’t think even children would enjoy, except not even that was enough to keep this story from thoroughly charming me. Here is what the movie could’ve been if we hadn’t needlessly complicated it: just a kid facing and overcoming his fears. Understandably, some padding is necessary in the transition from children’s picture book to feature-length film, but the other nighttime creatures would’ve been enough had we actually gotten to see Orion’s story through to the end properly as we do here.
In addition, and I hate to make this book review so much about the movie, but the look of the characters just had something… off about them as I watched the movie, so to go from that to this positively adorable artwork, complete with sparingly, but perfectly used, pop-up elements only serves to underline that dividing line between the two. The Peanuts Movie made the jump from 2D to 3D while retaining much of the original’s charm, whereas Orion and the Dark feels like just another animated movie, having transferred over absolutely none of its source material’s charm.
So, in short, before you sit down to watch Orion and the Dark with your little ones, seek the book out and read it to them. That may sound a little “we have Orion and the Dark at home” of me, but I’m sure they’ll be itching to watch the movie afterwards anyways. How could you not with a book this lovely?