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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (review)

Think Free Willy meets director Jay Russell’s own My Dog Skip. Snug and amiable, this is a comfy easy chair of a movie, based on the book by Dick King-Smith, and one easy to let yourself sink into and enjoy in spite of yourself: even a cynical grownup like me was quickly caught up in its effortless charm and innocent enthusiasm. Young Angus (13-year-old Alex Etel) is a shy, strange little boy living on the shores of a Scottish lake in the early days of World War II — Dad’s been off fighting for quite a while — and, well, a boy needs a friend, doesn’t he? This one finds a pal in the baby sea critter he rears from a pup as it grows from manageable just-post-egg-size to rather less hideable Loch Ness-monster-size. But still, the two local men — Ben Chaplin’s (Stage Beauty) roughshod groundskeeper and David Morrissey’s (The Reaping) snooty regimental commander — who are in an unspoken battle for the job of father figure to Angus can’t compare, as far as the boy is concerned, to the creature’s companionship. (Angus’s mom, playing by the always wonderful Emily Watson [Miss Potter], may have her own ideas about who should be filling her absent husband’s shoes.) The very minor detours into cartoonishness — most involving a bulldog named Churchill and comic animal chases — are more than outweighed by the surprisingly dark turns the film takes in its final act, ones that aren’t so much about how big and scary the monster gets but what terrible things the suspicious grownups try to do to it. The two little boys at my screening I spoke to afterward insist they weren’t scared, but they’d would say that, wouldn’t they?

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MPAA: rated PG for some action/peril, mild language and brief smoking

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
  • Kenny

    Hey MaryAnn… I liked the look of this from the trailer, though I’m a Scot, and the only movies people seem to make about my country involve ancient battles or Nessie…

    I’ll give it a wee look :)

    p.s (There are no lakes in Scotland!)

  • MaryAnn

    Lochs are lakes, are they not?

    There are lots of great movies about contemporary Scotland. Try Red Road, set in modern Glasgow.

  • Kenny

    Thanks.. I’ll give that a look. The one major example I could think of was Trainspotting.

    And I see what you did there… but lochs are not lakes… if they were lakes they wouldn’t be in Scotland. (I’m aware of how illogical that sounds…)

  • Lucy Gillam

    It looks like a charming movie, but I have to admit, I’m really confused about something. The book you link to is described over and over as being about a girl who finds a mysterious egg. So how did this ending up being a movie about a boy who finds a mysterious egg?

  • Grandmother screaming at the wall
    We have to shout above the din of our Rice Crispies
    We can’t hear anything at all
    Mother chants her litany of boredom and frustration
    But we know all her suicides are fake
    Daddy only stares into the distance
    There’s only so much more that he can take
    Many miles away
    Something crawls from the slime
    At the bottom of a dark Scottish lake

    from Synchronicity II, by The Police

    If it’s good enough for Sting, I’m sure it’s good enough for MaryAnn. ;-)

  • Lakes are indeed not lochs.

    I’m glad this movie is getting good reviews, it looks interesting and I’ve been hoping to get some suitable movies in the next year or two for the kid after he’s born.

  • MaryAnn

    The book you link to is described over and over as being about a girl who finds a mysterious egg. So how did this ending up being a movie about a boy who finds a mysterious egg?

    Come on, now. Everyone knows nobody cares about what little girls do! Of course they had to change the character to a boy, a person of the only gender really worth telling stories about.

    Merriam-Webster is happy to equate “loch” with “lake”, and so is The Legend of Nessie, “the Ultimate and Official Loch Ness Monster site,” which says:

    The loch is a tectonic lake…

  • Kenny

    Aye, Sting’s not Scottish, and that fact remains that there are no lakes in Scotland. :)

  • Kenny

    Honestly, the same thing in England would be called a lake, it’s the fact that it’s in Scotland that makes it a loch. You can’t call it a lake simply because it’s in Scotland.

    It’s the same as the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane… no difference in form, simply one of location.

  • Frenk

    The fact that there are Scots wasting… er… taking their time to insist that there are no “lakes” in Scotland only “lochs” explains why the only movies about Scotland are either about Nessie or ancient battles: Modern Scottish questions are usually 1) boring and 2) pointless.

    Where is Longshanks when you need him?

  • MaryAnn

    There are plenty of movies about Scotland that are not about Nessie or ancient battles. They’re just not coming from Hollywood.

  • >>Where is Longshanks when you need him?

  • Frenk

    All right, forgot who I was dealing with here. So, for all the Americans in the room:

    That was a JOKE about ancient battles and Nessie.

    Dry perhaps, but hardly the sort of thing any reasonable person would try to take seriously.

  • MaryAnn

    In what way was your comment a joke? How was it meant to be funny?

  • Frenk

    You give me a real challenge, MaryAnn. Trying to explain absurdity to an American is difficult, because so much of the country itself is absurd and yet meant, somehow, to be taken seriously — and is indeed taken seriously, by Americans at least.

    And of course jokes cannot be analyzed. One either understands or one does not understand.

    I will say that in this case, I was responding to the insistence of some posters that there no “lakes” in Scotland, only “lochs”. I was mocking this bit of boring and pointless pedantry as somehow typifying a Scotland that could only be entertaining 1) in the quasi-historical past or 2) as connected to a myth.

    Translated into American style humor, it might read: “Ha ha! You’re so dumb! You complain Hollywood is only interested in Nessie and ancient battles! But you so boring you complain about words of MaryAnn! That is why movies are about Nessie and ancient battles! Ha ha!” Probably a few vulgarities or references to excreta and/or sex would be required to complete the presentation, but maybe you get the idea.

    I tried to indicate that I was joking with the “Longshanks” tag, but I guess I should have slapped someone with a rubber chicken to communicate my purpose more clearly.

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