Netflix’s “Unicorn Store” isn’t quite magical enough to make up for the tackiness


Opening with a charming montage of old home videos immediately characterizing main character Kit (Brie Larson) as colorfully artistic and imaginative, Netflix’s Unicorn Store immediately wins points for endearment.

And I suppose a movie like this is supposed to just naturally continue racking up these said points. After all, the poster features a tranquil Kit relaxing on the grass, decked out in all the colors of the rainbow, from her attire to her paint-stained skin. Cute, right?

Maybe. But the movie also has “unicorn” in its title, and it’s not metaphorical. Unicorn Store follows recently kicked-out art student, Kit, whose incessant allegiance to rainbows, sparkles, and— believe it or not— unicorns have hindered her transition to young adulthood.

These hallmarks are featured very liberally throughout the movie, and they go farther than visual motifs. Kit’s character itself is riddled with childish innocence and naivety. So that initial endearing quality quickly turns sickly sweet.

Beyond struggling with parental relationships and a recent entrance into a traditional office job, the main storyline revolves around Kit’s mysterious invitation to a store cleverly dubbed “The Store.” There, an eccentric salesman, also cleverly named as “The Salesman” (Samuel L. Jackson), offers to sell Kit a real unicorn— her childhood dream— on the simple condition that she proves herself worthy of unicorn ownership, entailing building a home fit for the creature, deep self-reflection, and more.

Where’s the justification for a plot literally centered around the purchase of a unicorn?”

So, yeah, the movie offers a rather dizzying amount of sugar to stomach. I found it difficult to get past the absurdity of the plot, and for most of the movie, I struggled to understand the target audience, theme, and intent.

Normally, I don’t mind a bit of childishness in movies and such. I love Disney cartoons and other animated movies as much as the next person, and I don’t consider my movie taste beyond that to be all that mature or deep. But Unicorn Store has an exceptionally ridiculous plot, and it’s certainly not a children’s movie, what with its exploration of a variety of mature ideas— sexual harassment in the workplace, living up to parental expectations in adulthood, and letting go of childhood in growing up, to name a few.

So then where’s the justification for a plot literally centered around the purchase of a unicorn? The movie is classified as a comedy, and while there are some instances of lukewarm amusement, the movie altogether is not particularly humorous— certainly not comedic enough to explain away the unicorn-focused storyline.

With “it’s all a joke” eliminated as an explanation, I hoped for a deeper meaning or a twist ending. If that’s what I got is still in question. For the most part, I think the movie fell hopelessly short in providing that sort of depth or reward for viewers.

But then—  and here’s where I divulge my wholly embarrassing and rather contradictory confession— the movie ended, and after an hour and a half of confusion and skepticism and distaste, I found myself in tears.

Yes, despite the 400 words I just spit out in aversion for this movie, the ending moved me enough to tears (a lot of them). I don’t even think that final scene that touched me so was even that stirring. Like the rest of the movie, the scene was rather ridiculous, yet Kit’s monologue within the scene was the first semblance of any relatable or raw emotion. 

I’ll defend my hypocrisy with two things, though. For one, as a movie viewer, I am highly susceptible to falling for any emotional scene or movie, no matter how cheesy. So my dramatic response to that final moment really shouldn’t say much.

Secondly, and more relevant to the movie itself, the acting performances of Unicorn Store are outstanding. Larson does a wonderful job with that last monologue, even despite how much her character irritated me. And beyond this one scene, the other actors were incredible, although Mamoudou Athie stole the show with his character Virgil, the reluctant hardware store worker Kit enlists to help build her unicorn habitat.

As a character, Virgil is simply amazing with his carefully curbed skepticism battling his intrigue, amiability, and overall interesting personality that makes for a finally likable character. Athie does him justice to no end.

Nevertheless, the acting performances were simply not enough to save Unicorn Store. Despite my weak emotional threshold, Unicorn Store is bafflingly bizarre with misplaced magic that, unfortunately, simply falls short.