Review: The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
Plot: During WW2, a lonely Scottish boy named Angus discovers a mysterious egg- which soon hatches a bizarre, yet friendly creature that immediately adopts the boy as a surrogate father figure. At first, Angus hides the creature- which he dubs Crusoe, in the family bathtub. Soon the creature grows enormous, and he’s forced to leave Crusoe in the town lake- the Loch Ness. Eventually the so-called "Loch Ness Monster" is spotted by some local fishermen, and eventually draws the attention of an army battalion stationed at the estate where Angus’s mother, Anne (Emily Watson) works as a caretaker.
Review: THE WATER HORSE, from the novel by Dick King-Smith, is yet another wimpy family fantasy film produced by Walden Media- which churns out these films at an alarming rate. Already this year we’ve had BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, MR. MAGORIUM’S WONDER EMPORIUM, & THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING.
Considering that THE WATER HORSE is a family film, and is likely not targeted to bitter cynics in their mid- twenties like myself, I’ll try to be easy on it. Really- it’s not THAT bad a film. It’s has some nice Scottish scenery and a better than average cast for a film of this type. One of my favorite actors, Brian Cox, even turns up in a cameo as the aged Angus, who tells his story to a couple of American tourists- who incidentally seem WAY too engrossed in the tale. The always reliable Emily Watson turns in a nice performance as Angus’s concerned mother, as does Ben Chaplin, who plays a mysterious stranger that befriends the lad. I also enjoyed the fact that they tie THE WATER HORSE into the whole Loch Ness monster myth- as I was quite taken by this myth as a youngster. In Kindergarten I even made a Loch Ness monster out of play-doe for the school science fare.
Childhood nostalgia aside- the film does have several major problems- chief among them being the crappy CGI- particularly when it comes to the title character, Crusoe. It always looks totally unconvincing, and the scenes where Angus rides him in sea are absolutely ridiculous. Obviously the filmmakers are trying to make The Water Horse an endearing E.T- like creature- but through the crappy effects he comes off more like Mac from Mac & Me (anyone remember that flick- where the alien stays alive by drinking Coke and eating McDonalds? Anyone?). This film will probably play a lot better at home than it does in theatres, where the crappy CGI will not be as glaringly obvious as it is on the big screen. That said- the kids this movie is targeted to probably won’t be nearly as critical in regards to the sub-par effects. I always found the CGI in THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (another Walden production) rather fake looking- but that didn’t stop the film from raking in the cash.
Another problem with the film is the whole military plot line, which strikes me as a tad unnecessary. Not helping matters is the fact that they are led by the bland David Morrissey (fresh off his career killing role in BASIC INSTINCT 2) - who’s character should have been eliminated from the film. In the end, the whole military thing goes so way over the top that it becomes unintentionally funny, especially when Crusoe gets attacked and momentarily goes insane- leading up to the hysterically lame FREE WILLY rip off ending.
I imagine that when the film comes out on Christmas day it’ll likely be over shadowed by some of the other, larger scale family fare like NATIONAL TREASURE 2. People who love the book might go see it, but NARNIA it is not- and if the failure of THE GOLDEN COMPASS definitely points out that fantasy as a genre is not the sure bet it was a few years ago. In the end, The Water Horse definitely is not the film worth checking out this holiday season, but if you’ve got a set of rug rats, it probably wouldn’t make a bad DVD rental.
My Rating: 5/10