Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

directed by Jay Russell

The Water Horse poster  
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep is adapted from a book by Dick King-Smith, the same guy who wrote The Sheep-Pig, as well as a host of other animal stories. So it's not going to be a hard-hitting, serious piece of work. A couple of tourists are at Loch Ness when an old man in the pub offers to tell them the true story behind the legends of the monster.

Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel) is a boy who is waiting for his father to return from his tour of duty in the Navy. World War II is raging and life in his small Scottish village is quiet but austere. One day he finds an odd-looking rock on the shore of the lake, which turns out to be an egg. Angus is a solemn boy, and he could really do with a pet to keep him company.

Yet Angus gets more company than he expected when soldiers are billeted with them in the stately home that his mother is the housekeeper of. This presents a problem, because it means there are more people that Angus has to hide the creature from. He calls it Crusoe, although he has no idea exactly what it is. However he does know that his mother won't let him keep a pet, and he has to steer clear of the army, some of whom are especially keen hunters. But as the water horse grows it gets harder and harder to hide, and a challenge to feed.

When Lewis (Ben Chaplin) arrives to take a job as the new handyman, Angus feels that he's taking the place of his father. Captain Hamilton (David Morrissey) suspects Lewis is a coward or a deserter because he's not in the military, and the tight-lipped handyman seems to get on the wrong side of everyone to begin with. Beneath all of the fun Angus has trying to conceal a sweet and unruly animal, there's an undercurrent of anxiety because there's a war on.

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep has plenty of slapstick humour, but on the whole it's about loneliness and separation, and a boy who misses his father. Angus has to come to terms with loss, and friendship comes to mean more than anything to him. It's quite a weepie.

Alex Etel puts in a spirited and convincing performance as Angus, in spite of his youth. The supporting characters are a little exaggerated and comic, but not to the extent of caricature. The real star of the show, though, is Crusoe. The water horse is impressively animated in all of his incarnations, from egg to adulthood. He looks a little like a cross between a seal, a horse and a dinosaur, with possibly a little turtle thrown in for good measure.

The movie is charming, cute, saccharine, and as safe as you would expect a family-oriented movie to be. There are just a few hints of darkness, thanks to the military theme. The twists at the end are predictable, but this isn't a huge drawback since it's a film for kids, and it doesn't rely on a few twists at the end to provide all of the drama. If you like simple, sentimental stories peppered with gentle humour and sweet yet fantastic beasts then The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep will hit the spot.

Film Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

If you like this, try:

The Last Mimzy cover    

The Last Mimzy by Bob Shaye
When a brother and sister find a weird box of toys they start to develop unusual talents. But the white rabbit, Mimzy, is trying to tell them something.

Eragon cover    

Eragon by Stefen Fangmeier
A young farm boy discovers a dragon egg, and finds that everything changes. Including most of the original plot of the book.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson