THE WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP (Jay Russell). 110 minutes. Rating: NNN
The Water Horse offers a good telling of a familiar tale: the wounded child and the beloved beast. The twist is that it’s a magic beast from Scottish folklore.
In a tiny Scottish village during the Second World War, a lonely little boy with a fear of water and a father away in the navy finds an egg and hatches what looks like a small dinosaur. It grows fast, and his attempts to keep it a secret are made more difficult by the fact that an artillery battery is being billeted with his family. They’re keen to try their big guns on the Nazi U-boats they expect will be sneaking into the loch.
The cast, headed by Alex Etel as the boy, Emily Watson as his dour mother and Ben Chaplin as a harsh handyman, take the material seriously and perform with a tart energy that’s pitched to believability. That fits nicely with a smart script that avoids the gratuitous cuteness and cheesy moralizing that plague most children’s fantasy.
Director Jay Russell provides clean visuals, varied pacing and wonderful scenery. As for the water horse, apart from a little dogginess – a chronic problem with child-friendly CGI creatures – it’s appealing and convincing.