The Water Babies (1978) James Mason, Bernard Cribbins, Billie Whitelaw, Joan Greenwood Movie Review

The Water Babies (1978)   3/53/53/53/53/5

The Water Babies (1978)

A Lot of High Cockalorum

Street urchin Thomas (Tommy Pender) finds himself working for Mr. Grimes (James Mason), a chimney sweep who forces Thomas to climb up chimneys to clean them out. But at a Yorkshire mansion, whilst Thomas is climbing up the inside of their many chimneys Mr. Grimes and his lackey, Mr. Masterman (Bernard Cribbins), set about stealing the house's silver. When Mr. Grimes is caught he blames Thomas forcing the young boy to run and jump in to a river to escape where he finds himself in the animated world of "the water babies". There young Thomas befriends various creatures including a lobster and a seahorse who help on his journey to get back to his own world which to do so he must help "the water babies" escape from the Kraken.

I would imagine most people have seen "The Wizard of Oz" or at least know the story of Dorothy ending up following the yellow brick road, making friends whilst on a quest to return home. Well "The Water Babies" has something similar going on as Thomas ends up in a different world and on a quest to return home. But there are many differences, none more so than the world Thomas finds himself in is an animated one and suddenly this movie becomes a cartoon. Yes the animation is distinctly 70s and British which now is a touch simplistic but it makes for quite a cute movie.

Tommy Pender and Bernard Cribbins in The Water Babies (1978)

But as I said there are other differences and it has to be said that "The Water Babies" is a little out there and the sort of movie which I imagine could be freaky if you watched whilst under the influence with some comical musical moments, synchronized swimming by voles and plenty more. And before you even get to the animated parts of the movie there is a strange darkness to it with Billie Whitelaw, who plays a variety of characters, playing the mysterious house keeper with a hypnotic stare. I tell you what, I first watched "The Water Babies" back in 1990 as an 18 year old and watched it a few more times since and each time it becomes even more curious than last.

But whilst "The Water Babies" is a strange movie it is also entertaining in its weirdness. When a Scottish lobster starts singing "High Cockalorum" you can't help but smile and the same when you meet Terence the Sea Horse so wonderfully voiced by Lance Percival. And that is where "The Water Babies" is at its best as the actors chosen to voice the characters are great at making one liners work.

What this all boils down to is that "The Water Babies" is one of those movies which gets more and more curious with each year which passes. In fact with certain aspects of it being a product of its era, especially when it comes to character stereotypes, I would say this is one movie which might still work for those who saw it as children back in the 70s and 80s but might not work for new audiences.