Cutesy, corny and little-kid friendly, “Wish Upon a Unicorn” manages just enough goofy laughs to avoid “insipid,” no matter how hard everybody involved tries.
It’s a bit like that holiday evergreen “Prancer,” without the sophistication and sentiment of that reindeer-loses-his-sleigh kiddie comedy.
Chicago kids Mia (Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Summer Fontana) move to the country to help with grandma’s ranch. Rose (Chloe Webb of “Sid & Nancy”) is losing her memory and fading a bit, but barking “Time for chores” to a couple of tweens brings back her spirit.
Classmates include bullies, and the teachers there drawl — “What’s a HUCKLEberry?” The general store is straight out of “Green Acres,” with cornpone “regulars” and a conspiracy-nut proprietor. Crazy Willie (Kevin J. O’Connor, not bad) will tell you Bigfoot stories.
“You need a new cow. Cuz’ we’re TIRED of your BULL!”
But Willie sees in Mia a fellow traveler, “a believer…someone who knows the impossible is always possible.“
When Mia spies a sparkly horse with a horn in the woods, bathed in a rainbow of light, nobody believes her. They can’t even see the yearling she calls Rocco. Doubting Dad (Jonathan Lajoie) laughs it off, an and even Emma has her doubts.
“I hear their farts smell like cotton candy!”
But Mia and her eventual convert Emma discover that Rocco is about to change the family luck. It’s just that SOMEbody knows unicorn lore that makes him covet the critter for nefarious means.
The action is “E.T.” lite, the effects modest, but there are gags that land and one-liners that score.
“Maybe it”s time to rethink the Easter Bunny!”
Mia does research to argue that unicorns have to exist — “They’re in the Bible like NINE times!” Mis-translation from Hebrew, but OK.
She reads that “a pure and innocent damsel in a white dress” can attract them. Dad’s confused.
“Wait, where are you GOING? Did you get MARRIED?”
There’s not a lot to this. And it’s entirely too undemanding for anybody over the age of eight.
But if you’re in the target audience…what are you doing reading movie reviews on Mom’s iPhone?
MPAA Rating: PG, a little violence, a “hella” here, a “fart” joke there
Cast: Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Summer Fontana, Kevin J. O’Connor, Tait Blum and Chloe Webb.
Credits: Written and directed by Steve Bencich. A Universal/Netflix release.
Running time: 1:33