The Legend of Nessie
"The Water Horse" is 60% fantasy and 40% animal drama, the sort of thing where we have a young child who finds himself a pet which helps him with various problems. But whilst this 40% is sort of familiar it is the other 60%, the fantasy side of "The Water Horse" which makes it entertaining because it's all about the legendary Loch Ness Monster. For anyone who has the slightest interest in the legend of Nessie this charming tale of a young boy finding an egg which happens to be a baby Nessie will be fun and even for those who know nothing of the legend will find it entertaining. But whilst entertaining, seriously charming and featuring some wonderful acting it is strangely not hugely memorable, just the sort of movie you will enjoy watching but not feel in any rush to see again.
With his father away fighting the Germans in the war, young Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel - Millions) is finding life hard; he's missing his dad and with the British Army taking over the country estate where they live things are difficult. But having returned home from the nearby beach with a bucket of shells and rocks Angus discovers that one rock is in fact an egg, but not a normal sort of an egg but a water horse egg, which hatches the strangest of creatures. With a strange animal to look after and keep a secret Angus finds happiness naming this creature Crusoe and feeding it scraps from the kitchen. But as Crusoe rapidly grows keeping him a secret is no longer possible so Angus and handyman Lewis Mowbray (Ben Chaplin - Murder by Numbers) sneak him into the nearby Loch. But with the army doing secret weapons testing Crusoe's life is in danger.
So there are two sides to "The Water Horse" the fantasy and the animal drama which interweave nicely especially with a nice cameo from Brian Cox as an old man in a pub who spins yarns to American tourists about the legend of the Loch Ness Monster providing an intro to the main story. But as such there is something familiar to "The Water Horse" and that is the set up of young Angus who is missing his father who is off at war and who is really in denial over his father's death. Add to that Angus's fear of the water and we have a troubled young boy who after finding a rather large egg finds himself with a pet, but not your normal sort of pet but a baby Nessie which he calls Crusoe. So as you would expect Angus bonds with this rather strange and comical animal, protecting it, helping it flee from those who would kill it and Crusoe helps Angus not only get over his fear of water but also his denial over his dad's death.
It is all very typical to the point that eventually Crusoe gets so big that Angus has to let him go. But with "The Water Horse" being set during the war and with the army setting up a training camp at the country estate he lives on it does have a different feel, a more mysterious feel. And that mystery comes in the form of new handyman Lewis Mowbray who believes Crusoe to be a Water Horse, but also finds himself at loggerheads with Capt. Hamilton. It just adds a different flavour to things so whilst there are plenty of typical scenes such as Crusoe causing chaos in the home, you then have Capt. Hamilton taking a dislike to Mowbray and becoming determined to prove he is not all he seems.
But then on top of this you have the fantasy aspect, the element of legend as it is basically the tale of the Loch Ness Monster. And as such it is a wonderfully entertaining tale with how comes this monster happened to arrive in the Loch but also drawing in famous aspects of the legend. There is a wonderfully amusing scene where we see some local men who had seen the monster faking a photograph because it will drum up tourists to the area, and that photo is one of the most famous images of Nessie. Even if you have little interest in the Loch Ness Monster the fact this legend is used in a family animal drama will entertain.
At the centre of "The War Horse" is the CGI creation of Crusoe which personally for me is a bit of a mixed bag. The scenes of a young Crusoe, as this mischievous little creature are the best; it's cute and strangely believable. But then as Crusoe grows in the more recognizable monster living in the Loch it just loses something, just that slight edge of realism, something which younger audiences probably won't pick up on. And talking of realism whilst it seems very strange to think that this story of the Scottish Loch Ness Monster was actually filmed in New Zealand director Jay Russell does quite an impressive job of making you feel like you are in Scotland.
As for the acting well in a way it's like the movie, entertaining but not really that memorable. Alex Etel is effective as young Angus as is Emily Watson as his mother Anne MacMorrow and Ben Chaplin as handyman Lewis Mowbray delivers a decent Scottish accent as well as a touch of mystery. But whilst there isn't a bad performance in "The Water Horse" there is nothing special, just solid acting.
What this all boils down to is that "The Water Horse" is a fun movie which puts a nice spin on the lonely boy and pet story by incorporating the legend of the Loch ness Monster. But whilst fun, charming and well acted it is nothing more that entertaining and rather surprisingly not that memorable.