|Available at Amazon.com|
The family film of 2007 that no one probably saw.
One of the most common types of stories told in family films these days is the “boy-and-his-dog” story. You know how this story goes. Boy doesn’t have many friends and feels isolated from other humans for various reasons. Boy then finds a dog, names the dog, becomes friends with the dog, but then boy and dog face conflict to stay together. In the end, though, the dog and the boy overcome the odds and enrich each other’s lives. Of course, the dog doesn’t have to be a dog at all. It can be any kind of animal, even a alien creature like in E.T., or even the legendary Loch Ness Monster like in The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.
Set during World War II in Scotland, The Water Horse tells the story of a young boy named Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel), who spends most of his time waiting for his father, played in flashbacks by Craig Hall, to return from the war. Angus’ mother, Anne (Emily Watson), and older sister, Kirstie (Priyanka Xi), don’t have the heart to tell him that his dad won’t be coming home at all. Then, one day Angus discovers what turns out to be an egg that hatches to reveal a water horse, a small feisty beast Angus names Crusoe. Since animals are forbidden in the great house where his mother works as the housekeeper, he keeps Crusoe hidden in the estate’s workshop—a situation that becomes impossible when new handyman Lewis Mowbray (Ben Chaplin) arrives on the scene and sets up residence in the shop. Things become more complicated still with the encroachment of the military, members of which are suddenly billeted in the house. It quickly becomes a case of enlisting Lewis’ aid in order to keep anyone else from finding out about Crusoe, who grows in size at such an alarming rate that he soon has to be taken to the nearest loch called “Loch Ness”.
The cast of The Water Horse is a good mix of child and adult actors. You might have seen some of these actors in other movies, but none of them can be considered big stars or anything. Still the acting is quite good. Alex Etel was a good choice for the lead and the supporting characters were played by the right actors as well. One of the main positives for this film is that it has strong characters that are both believable and likable. That is key as kids watching this film will be able to root for Angus to succeed.
The story is really a mix of three different elements. You have the classic “boy-and-dog” story, which leads to a lot of slapstick cartoonish comedy that will surely entertain the kids. But there is also the element of a coming-of-age drama here as well. Angus has to conquer his fears of water and also realize that his father might not be coming back from the war. Watching Angus go through that process is quite intriguing. Then later, the story takes a turn into the Free Willy direction. Once everyone knows that Crusoe is alive the military tries to kill this “monster”, and Angus and his family do everything they can to set him free.
So if there is a negative to The Water Horse it’s that it’s not that original and at times doesn’t know what kind of story it wants to tell. For the most part, the story that is told in this film is interesting and entertaining. Certain elements may only appeal to certain members of the audience, but this is a true family film, with exception of some of the water imaginary being too frightening for young kids. The visuals and cinematography are slick, and it would be hard not to find something to like about this film. Everyone should at least give it a rental, since it’s likely that few have even heard of it before now.
The video is given in either 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen color or 1.33:1 fullscreen color. The film is dark, so there are not many vibrant colors. But it’s never too dark that you can’t see what’s happening on the screen. There is little grain and really very few problems at all.
The audio included is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound or French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English and French as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear, so no major problems here either.
“Myths & Legends” Featurette –
This featurette runs 10 minutes and it’s all about the legend of the “Loch Ness Monster”. Director, Jay Russell, leads this feaurette. We also meet a guy named Steve Feltham here, who lives in a trailer and has staked out the Loch Ness for the past 15 years trying to get a picture of the monster. Pretty interesting.
“The Story” Featurette –
This featurette runs 12 minutes and it’s all about the story in the film. Again, Jay Russell and other crew members talk about the film.
“The Characters” Featurette –
This featurette runs 15 minutes and it’s all about the characters in the film. The actors provide comments about their experiences during production.
“Setting The Scene” Featurette –
This featurette runs 13 minutes and it’s all about the locations they shot this film.
“Water Works: Creating the Water Horse” Featurette –
This featurette runs 12 minutes and it’s all about the special effects and water effects used in the film. If you like “blue screen” footage, you will especially like this featurette.
“Creating Crusoe” Featurette –
This featurette runs 14 minutes and it’s all about how they designed and created the “Monster” in the film.
Deleted Scenes –
There are eight deleted scenes here that total seven minutes. They were all cut for the usual reasons.
The Water Horse is worth at least a rental for all members of the family. It has a good heart despite it sometimes not knowing what kind of story it wants to tell. Some might even say that this is the best “boy-and-his-dog” story since E.T.. I wouldn’t go that far, but it definitely an above average family film.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. Directed by Jay Russell. Starring Emily Watson, Alex Etel, Ben Chaplin, David Morrissey, and Brian Cox. Written by Robert Nelson Jacobs (screenplay) and Dick King-Smith (book). Running time: 112 minutes. Rated PG. Released on DVD: April 8, 2008.Available at Amazon.com