Tuesday, December 25, 2007

"The Water Horse" -- * * 1/2

Jay Russell's "The Water Horse" isn't wildly entertaining or exciting, but it's just charming and enjoyable enough to make for a modest afternoon out at the movies. Telling the story of Angus ("Millions"'s Alex Etel), who discovers a small mythical creature known as a water horse, Russell imbues the proceedings with a seemingly personal touch, sense of nostalgia, and a fairy-tale like wonder that is almost enough to temper the familiarity and pacing. Personally, I liked the framing device of an old man (Brian Cox) in a tavern telling this WWII-set story as one long flashback, and I thought the dark turns taken in the last third were refreshing, but I'm not sure entirely how kids will react. The initially cute creature eventually grows into a full-blown massive, dangerous monster, which may frighten the youngest of the young, but things of course turn out okay in the end. While I was never terribly enthralled with the movie, I did appreciate its attempts to be more than typical, pandering kiddie fare. Rather than just a cute kid, Angus is struggling with the death of his father and the two men (Ben Chaplin, and Priyanka Xi) fighting for the affections of his grieving mother (Emily Watson). Though it could've been something special if the effects were polished a bit more, and there was a further attempt to veer from the expected, "The Water Horse" is still a watchable, semi-endearing family film that's better than its trailers would indicate.


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