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Netflix has a new number one movie - and it's written by a cult director

Well, we didn't see that one coming...

Netflix has a new number one movie - and it's written by a cult director
04 February 2024

There’s a name you’ll likely recognise behind the latest Netflix number-one movie Orion and the Dark, even if you have never seen any of his films.

Legendary screenwriter and director Charlie Kaufman is listed as one of the three writers of Orion and the Dark. Kaufman is known for writing classics like Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation and, most recently, for the screen adaptation of I'm Thinking of Ending Things.

But he's not known for writing kids' content.

His singular sensibilities may well be why this one is picking up far better reviews than the last couple of Pixar movies, and that it is number one on Netflix globally, according to FlixPatrol - usurping the definitely not kid-friendly Badland Hunters.

It centres around Orion, a kid who is afraid of the dark, and much more besides. And to show him there’s nothing to be afraid of, Dark (yep, darkness is embodied as a character) takes him on a whistle-stop tour of the world.

Also among the cast of characters are Insomnia, Sleep, Sweet Dreams, Quiet and Unexplained Noises. You’ll get strong Inside Out vibes from a glance at the trailer.

However, it’s an adaptation of a children’s book by Emma Yarlett, who is one of the other listed writers. And the last is Lloyd Taylor. You may not have heard of him but his relatively short track record is flawless, having co-written Nimona and Spies in Disguise.

In other words, if three writers signals the “written by committee” alarm, we don’t think that’s the case here.

Onion and the Dark is a Dreamworks film, and likely its strongest effort since at least 2022’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.

Orion and the Dark reviews

Total FIlm calls it “a clever, all-ages charmer.” And it doesn’t feel like your average CGI animation either. “Despite its 3D CGI good looks, the film has an indie, handmade feel, which sits well with Kaufman’s twisty, slightly meta tale,” the 4-star review says.

Empire loved Orion and the Dark too, describing it as “that rare family-friendly film bursting with ideas and challenging concepts. It’s Charlie Kaufman’s introspective existential dread — for kids!”

It earned a slightly less enthusiastic review from IGN, a 7/10 score, but the sentiment is still roundly positive.

“Orion and the Dark plays like the screenwriter’s work-for-hire version of a high-concept Pixar fable, complete with life lessons and a very Inside Out-like panel of abstract-concepts-as-characters,” it reads. “But if the animation is nothing special, the script is better than what drives most animated movies aimed at a young audience.”

And for those concerned Charlie Kaufman’s anxious neuroticism might seep into their kids’ minds too much, it sounds like there’s not too much to worry about in this relatable 92-minute tale.

There’s no age rating on for Orion and the Dark on the BBFC website just yet. But Common Sense Media recommends the film for audiences aged 8+.

Orion and the Dark is streaming now.