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Friday Flicks: 'Nico the Unicorn'

Kevin Zegers, international heartthrob and upcoming star of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, has a dark secret in his past. It involves a unicorn. Movie critic Amanda Ronan blows his cover.

From Amanda:

Nico the Unicorn (1998) opens with a mother, Julie, and young Billy Hastings beginning another chapter of their lives in a new town. They’ve inherited an old farmhouse and during renovations Billy spots an old book titled simply “Unicorns.”

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One day while Billy waits for Mom to get off work after school, he happens across a sideshow act titled “Unusual Critturs,” home of a drunken abusive man named Dobbs who is willing to sell a bedraggled pony for $20. Well, wouldn’t you know it Billy just happens to have $20 that Mom gave him “in case he wanted something at the mall!”

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Billy brings the pony home and (note to all males) catches the eye of the lovely Caroline, the girl from next door (literally, it's a young Elisha Cuthbert of The Girl from Next Door fame) for his heroic deeds.

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Soon Billy realizes that his little pony was a 2 for 1 package! Billy and Caroline help birth a horse with a… horn? It’s a unicorn! Then momma pony gets into a fight with a mountain lion!

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To protect her foal she leads the mountain lion away from the barn, but loses her life in the process. Then, because (obvs) we’re dealing with a magical creature of lore, overnight the baby Ponicorn transforms into a full blown Horsicorn. Billy admits “he’s a little big for his age” and the newly named Nico wears a sombrero to disguise his horn.

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Nico magically grows tropical plants and flowers in his paddock, including pomegranate trees, understands English and can create fresh water springs with a single stomp of his hoof.

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But trouble strikes when Caroline accidentally tells bad boy Bruce and his gang about Nico. They attempt to sell the story and pictures to the local newspaper for $100,000.

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Bruce snaps a few condemning pictures, which the press leaks, causing every idiot within a two hundred mile radius to decide they’d like to own the unicorn for themselves, including but not limited to ‘Dobbs the Dirtbag’ who first sold the pony mare to Billy for $20. Billy’s first reaction (which is stereotypical of this type of movie) is to make a run for it!

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Billy and Nico head up to the treacherous “Big Rock” to hideout from Dobbs, the police helicopters, and let’s not forget about the stinkin’ mountain lion!

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Will Billy and Nico make it out alive, unharmed, and free of exploitation?!? You’ll just have to watch and see!

Nico the Unicorn, based on a YA novel by Frank Sacks, enthralled my 5-year-old daughter with its super simple plot of Baddies vs. Pretty Pony and Loving Boy. It was a fairytale, plain and simple, and never tried to be anything else. So while parts of it were corny (i.e. the magical gold fairy dust that kept erupting from its forehead and hooves) it still worked with the basic gist of the film.

I had two problems with this movie. One, was the unneeded and unresearched melodrama about feeding the pony. The mom, played by Anne Archer, was dismayed about the cost of feeding the mare. She bought four bags of Omolene for the poor little thing and planned on that lasting just a week! Can we say founder!

My second problem is Anne Archer herself. Although the woman has been nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA, and a Golden Globe, I cannot stand her style of acting. Even in this B-rated film about a kid and his unicorn she seemed melodramatic and overdone. My two cents… cha-ching!

On the good side, though, we have a young Kevin Zegers who shines as Billy. His dimples were cutie-patootie as a little kid and his acting wasn’t half bad either. Zegers went on to star in the Air Bud movie series, Gossip Girl and is now “all grownup” for his upcoming (and much anticipated) The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones as Alec Lightwood.

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I have no doubt that fangirls across the globe will suddenly be watching Nico the Unicorn after City of Bones opens August 21st. I say beat the crowd!

I give Nico the Unicorn 2 ½ Golden Horseshoes.

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Available on Netflix.

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About the Author

Amanda’s experience with horses is just as eclectic as her taste in movies.  She has dabbled in almost every discipline from eventing to team penning to fox hunting.  She started riding when she was 8 with her local 4-H club in Western performance events.  She moved on to the AQHA circuit with her Quarter Horse, “Aggie,” when she was 12 and he was a green 2 year old.  Through college she held a working student position at Seahorse Sporthorses, owned by Terri Adams, where she was introduced to the wonderful world of show jumping and eventing.  Along with Aggie, who just turned 20 years old, she has two OTTBs in her herd named “Gump” and “Lizard.”  Amanda continues her jumping training with Ms. Adams and works on that necessary evil also known as dressage with Mimi Burch of Blue Moon Farm.

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