Wednesday, March 26, 2008

THE WATER HORSE: Splashing Fun for Kids

THE WATER HORSE (fantasy adventure)

Cast: Alex Etel, Ben Chaplin, Emily Watson, David Morrissey, Priyanka Xi and Brian Cox
Director: Jay Russell
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? Take "Free Willy", mix it up with the Nessie (or Loch Ness monster) myth and throw in a touch of "King Kong" and you will get this kiddie fantasy that should delight the whole family. Of course, kids below 10 would enjoy it more that the older 'uns...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The story opens in a pub near Loch Ness in Scotland where an American tourist couple notices a newspaper photograph of the monster 'Nessie' on the wall. The guy remarks that it's a fake and one of the locals (Brian Cox) agrees with him. He then tells the story which takes us back to 1942 when Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel), still in denial about his father's death in the Second World War, finds a mysterious egg on the beach.

The egg hatches a cute tiny reptile which Angus names Crusoe. Angus feeds it and nurses it together with his sister (Priyanka Xi) and their handyman Lewis Mowbray (Ben Chaplin), while keeping it secret from his mother (Emily Watson) and Capt Hamilton (David Morrissey) who is iin charge of the soldiers billeted at their Scottish mansion. Crusoe grows very fast and soon Angus is forced to release him into the Loch - providing the 'origins' of the legendary Nessie.

HITS & MISSES: Every child loves a pet and here, youngsters will love the cute Crusoe, a cross between a dinosaur and a snail with web feet. We root for Angus, who, while caring for Crusoe, is able to overcome his grief over his father and re-connect with his family and those around him. And what makes this "Water Horse" likeable is the way in which it weaves one of the world's most enduring modern-day legends into its narrative.

Of course, we have to overlook the implausible sequences in which Angus is carried underwater astride Crusoe, and the many near-misses between the monster and the soldiers' cannonballs. What matters is that its lead star Alex Etel is entirely credible and that the more famous adult cast provide effective support. And yes, the CGI Crusoe looks real enough.

THE LOWDOWN: A by-the-book fantasy adventure that should entertain the whole family.


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