This period-piece film of magic and friendship, based on the book The Water Horse by Dick King-Smith, opens the imagination of children of all ages to the mythical Loch Ness Monster, the perils of World War II, and the bonding of relationships.
The story begins in a present-day Scottish pub where old Angus MacMorrow (Brian Cox) is entertaining a vacationing couple (Jessica and Matthew Kaczorowski) with a tale about his childhood. He tells them how as a young boy he found an object on the beach that turned out to be an egg, from which hatched an amazing creature that he learned was a Water Horse – but he couldn’t tell anyone about it. The eager tourists want to hear the whole story, so Old Angus, drinking his ale, spins his yarn.
In a quick flashback to 1942, the narrative explains why Young Angus (Alex Extel) is a bit of an outsider and keeps to himself. Having lost his father Charlie MacMorrow (Craig Hall) in a World War II naval battle, he has only his older sister Kirstie (Priyanka Xi) and his mother Anne (Emily Watson) for companionship. He compensates by adopting the mysterious creature as a pet, happy to have a new friend, whom he names Crusoe, and even more excited to have a secret, if only for a short while. The creature grows very quickly, making it hard to hide, which adds to the problem of secrecy. Angus decides to let his sister and the handyman Lewis Mowbray (Ben Chaplin) in on the secret, because Crusoe is causing havoc in the grounds and household.
This plot can let your imagination run riot, which is the fun of it. The story’s appeal is its simplicity; it is straightforwardly about the relationships between a family of people and one strange animal, and the effect the creature has on that family. It taps into the universal themes of magic and friendship when the creature, as it grows, becomes a beautiful metaphor for the relationship Angus once had with his father. Crusoe helps Angus grow from a young child caught in a war-torn United Kingdom towards maturity and the ability to accept realities.
The performances by the entire cast were great. Angus’s mother Anne is a complex character, in denial about the loss of her husband and about her new feelings for the secretive and enigmatic handyman. This scenario provides a platform for another character in the film, Captain Hamilton, a man who cares for Anne but is extremely unsure of himself. His orders are to lead an army troop to secure the Loch Ness waterways against attack from Germany, but they haven’t been properly prepared for that responsibility. I was very impressed with the visual effects and the CGI of the Loch Ness creature in the water chase scenes, which were the most exciting parts of the movie.
This is a great holiday family film.
Directed by: Jay Russell
Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Release date: December 25, 2007
Genre: Adventure/Family/Fantasy and War
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
MPAA Rating: PG