The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep ** ½ (out of ****)

Director: Jay Russell
Writers: Written by Robert Nelson Jacobs based on the novel by Dick King-Smith
Cast: Alex Etel, Emily Watson, Priyanka Xi, Ben Chaplin, David Morrissey
Rating: PG (action and mild language)
Running Time: 112 min
Release Date: 12/25/2007

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep is a children’s film set in Scotland during World War II. It is the story of Angus MacMarrow (Alex Etel) a 12-year old boy who finds a “rock” by the shore that turns out to be the egg of some mysterious creature. For visualization purposes think of it as a dinosaur egg. He takes it home and leaves it in his father’s workshop, a small building which is separate from the families’ quite substantial house. It hatches over night and is born the “water horse” of the shows title.

Angus’ father is a sailor in the Royal Navy whose ship was lost at sea and Angus has yet to face the fact that he isn’t coming home. Anne MacMarrow (Emily Watson), his mother, is far from getting over the tragedy and for some reason forbids Angus from having pets. So the birth of the “water horse” creature, who he names Crusoe, causes him to endeavor to hide it from his mother. This immediately becomes a lot more difficult for Angus as a battery of the Royal Artillery arrives to guard the lock from Nazi submarines. The commander Captain Hamilton (David Morrissey) informs his mother that he will be quartering his officers in their house and the enlisted men will camp on the grounds. Then a newly hired handy man (Ben Chaplin) takes over the workshop leaving little space to hide Crusoe.

Ominous signs of what in store abound. The artillery unit boasts a hunter, who the captain refers to as an natural killer; the mess sergeant has Churchill, the units bulldog mascot, that would sure like to get his teeth into baby water horse; and the mother suspects the existence of a pet and asks the handyman to help her find it. And, don’t forget that the officers of the battery are now living in the big house. All the elements of tension for a children’s movie drama!

Fortunately, Angus is able to enlist the aid of his sister Kristie (Priyanka Xi) and the new handyman to help him hide the creature. In fact it is the handyman who first recognizes the type of creature Crusoe is. He tells Angus of the legend of the water horse.

The Crusoe grows rapidly and soon becomes too big to hide in the workshop or the bathroom of the main house. The illusion is obviously to the famous Lock Ness monster. The creature looks somewhat like the plesiosaur, a type of dinosaur that lived Jurassic through Cretaceous periods. The problem with this plot is that Lock Ness is a giant fresh water lake and isn’t on the seashore. So there would be no enemy submarines there to defend against. Perhaps this doesn’t matter in this fantasy story but it is a major plot flaw.

The Water Horse does provide a lot of campy movie action in the style of classic Disney. In addition there is a back story of the romantic interests and competition between the artillery captain and the handyman that could provide some interest for mothers taking their children to the movies. Over all it’s a cute but not spectacular film but nice for families with young children.

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