Film review: The Waterhorse: Legend of the Deep ****

2008-03-10 00:00

THE Waterhorse is a charming children’s movie based on the book by Dick King Smith, who also wrote Babe. Like Babe, it is heavy on the CGI, a little cutesy sometimes, but intelligent.

Angus (Alex Etel) is a lonely little boy whose mother (played by Emily Watson) is the housekeeper on a grand estate in Scotland, near Loch Ness (the movie was filmed in New Zealand, and the scenery is incredible). It is World War 2 and his father has long been away on a tour of duty.

Angus misses him very much.The house has been colonised by a corps of soldiers, headed by the pompous Captain Hamilton.

One day, Angus finds a strange egg at the side of the loch. He takes it home, hides it away and it hatches into a tiny, magical creature that quickly becomes not so tiny and increasingly harder to hide. Angus soon has his very own Nessie and the two become best friends. You can guess the rest, really — it all becomes a bit Free Willy — but the adventure and charm make up for the predictability of the plot.

Like all good fantasy, this one deals with the frightening process of growing up, and it does it with subtlety and sympathy and gentle, oblique humour. Three-dimensional characters, a cute monster and a smart script — this is the best thing kids have had to watch for a very long time.

**** Joanna Wright

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