Orion and the Dark” is “Inside Out” for anxious insomniacs

Charlie Kaufman’s latest creation on Netflix is an animated gem that delves into the psyche of a neurotic tween grappling with an intense fear of the dark. With Kaufman’s signature blend of surrealism and emotional depth, this film offers a captivating journey that is part Pixar-like heartwarming tale and part literal nightmare fuel.

At its core, the movie centers around Orion, an 11-year-old voiced by the talented Jacob Tremblay, who is plagued by a myriad of fears, including cancer, clowns, and even the mundane dread of clogging the school toilet. But above all, his greatest terror lies in the enveloping darkness of night. Like many anxious children, bedtime is a battleground for Orion, with his parents, voiced by Carla Gugino and Matt Dellapina, struggling to coax him into slumber each night.

However, Orion’s fear takes on a tangible form when the Dark, voiced by Paul Walter Hauser in a manic Seth Rogen-esque portrayal, emerges from his closet. Contrary to his expectations, the Dark proves to be more than just a terrifying presence; he’s a misunderstood figure, offering to show Orion the true nature of his fears. Together, they embark on a surreal adventure through the nocturnal realm, encountering a colorful cast of characters including Insomnia, Sleep, Sweet Dreams, Quiet, and Unexplained Noises.

The parallels to “Inside Out” are unmistakable as Orion navigates the inner workings of his mind, confronting his fears head-on with the help of his newfound nocturnal companions. Whether they’re soothing troubled sleepers or resorting to more aggressive methods like pillow smothering, the Dream Team’s antics provide both laughs and poignant insights into Orion’s journey.

Yet, Kaufman’s narrative transcends mere animated entertainment, delving into deeper themes of intergenerational storytelling and existential introspection. As the story unfolds, we glimpse glimpses of an adult Orion, portrayed by Colin Hanks, recounting his childhood adventures to his daughter, Hypatia. The meta-narrative adds layers of complexity, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality in classic Kaufman fashion.

What begins as a simple tale of overcoming childhood fears evolves into a profound exploration of the human condition. Kaufman masterfully weaves together elements of absurdity, humor, and genuine emotion, creating a cinematic experience that resonates long after the credits roll. With its quirky charm and thought-provoking narrative, “Orion and the Dark” is more than just a children’s movie; it’s a timeless work of art that appeals to audiences of all ages.

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