Reviewed by C.J. Darlington
The Water Horse
"...a delightful romp through a child's dream come true, sure to please the whole family."
Imagine you’re a young Scottish boy who’s father is off fighting in World War II. Nothing’s been the same since he left. You’re lonely and you miss him terribly, but you find some comfort in combing the beaches for treasures left by the waves. One day in a tidal pool you find a large barnacle encrusted rock. Or maybe it’s a strange shell. You take it home and discover your life is changed forever.
Thus begins young Angus MacMorrow’s story. His rock turns out to be an egg, and the animal that hatches from it (he names him Crusoe after Robinson Crusoe) just might be the rarest of all creatures: a water horse. Legend has it there can only be one of them alive in the world at one time, and now Angus is faced with the challenge of keeping a secret who is growing by leaps and bounds. How can he possibly hide something this big?
Dick King-Smith has written several popular children’s books, and this marks another of his novels made into a charming family movie (he also wrote Babe). It’s been said that a lot of creative license was taken in this book to movie adaptation, so I approached The Water Horse strictly as a filmgoer.
The Water Horse could conjure up comparisons to Eragon for the egg-hatching-into-a-creature moments (Crusoe does look a lot like Saphira the dragon as a baby). But unlike Eragon, this movie is set in reality. Taking place in Scotland but filmed largely in New Zealand, the only thing of fantasy here is Crusoe. And that’s quite enough.
Newcomer Alex Etel is perfect in the role of Angus. The supporting cast of Emily Watson as Angus’ mother, Anne, and Ben Chaplin as a mysterious handyman who may or may not be a spy brought a depth to the film that adults will appreciate. You feel the concern Anne has for her children growing up in a troubled time of war, especially for withdrawn Angus who counts the days until his father comes home. To make matters worse, the Allied forces sets up camp on their property, making it impossible for this mother to shelter her children from it.
It isn’t hard to believe a creature like Crusoe could actually exist, except for in one scene involving Angus riding on Crusoe’s back. How the boy manages to hold onto the animal’s slippery neck as they dive into the water and swim the depths of the Loch (not to mention how Angus held his breath for that long) is harder to believe. Children will eat it up.
Ultimately, like the good-old Disney movies of our childhoods, The Water Horse delivers on all levels. Sure, the plot was as predictable as the creature was cute. There’s the typical black tie dinner ruined by creature mayhem, and a lot of angst over the water horse’s safety, but that’s exactly the way we want a movie like this. The Water Horse is a delightful romp through a child’s dream come true, sure to please the whole family.
MPAA Rating: PG (for some action/peril, mild language and brief smoking)
WATCH THE TRAILER:
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.