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The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2007)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/8/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/11/2008

Many films are based on real-life events or take place during actual events. We usually refer to these movies are "docudramas", "historical dramas", or if the movie is based on a specific person, a "biopic". But, what do you call a movie which is set in a real location and addresses real historical facts, but the central story is based on what many people consider to be a myth or legend? Is this still a historical drama? This is the case with The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep which takes one of the world's most famous mysteries and places it in an historical context.

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep is set in 1942, during the height of World War II. Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel) lives on the shore of Loch Ness in Scotland with his mother, Anne (Emily Watson), and his sister, Kirstie (Priyanka Xi). His father is away at war, and the family misses him greatly. Angus is afraid of the water, but he loves to examines the tide pools around the loch. One day, he finds a large, shiny rock and takes it home. That night, the rock breaks open and a very small creature emerges from it. Angus feeds the creature and finds it to be gentle and intelligent, and he names it Crusoe. He shows it to Kirstie and they both decide to hide it from their mother. Then, visitors begin to arrive at the house. Lewis Mowbray (Ben Chaplin), a handyman, comes to work at the house and immediately finds the creature. Much to Angus' relief, he agrees to keep it a secret. Then, a group of soldiers, led by Captain Hamilton (David Morrissey), commandeer the house, as they are concerned that Nazi submarines may be in the loch. As Crusoe grows to an immense size, it becomes more difficult for Angus to keep it a secret.

This movie is based on a book by Dick King-Smith, who also wrote the source material for 1995's Babe. That story was full of warmth, humor, and suspense, attributes which are completely lacking in The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. OK, that may be an overstatement, but the film isn't nearly as inviting as it wants to be (or could have been), and the reason for this is simple: overkill.

The movie overwhelms the viewer in two ways. First, the movie is too long. Assuming that the target audience for this movie is children and families, 112 minutes is a gargantuan amount of time to spend with such a small story. Despite some subplots (more on that in a moment) and the wraparound story featuring Brian Cox in a cameo, the movie is simply the tale of a boy and his sea serpent (can I say that?) and the story really drags at times. The second half of the film, where Crusos has moved into the loch, really moves slowly, as there simply isn't enough water horse. Secondly, the movie throws too many characters and situations at us that add little to the story. We've got the arrival of Lewis and then the arrival of the soldiers, which means that there are introductions all around. This is followed by subplots concerning Anne and Captain Hamilton, and the Army cook and the Army cook's dog. The soldiers do serve as a "villain" of sorts, but again, this all slows the film down.

If The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep could have stuck to the basics, it could have been a charming movie. While grown-up Crusoe looks like a wet dinosaur, the baby water horse is undeniably cute and the special effects artists have given him a great deal of personality. Yes, a more basic story would have been cliched, but better that than one which wears out its welcome. The movie could have easily tapped into the delicious idea of finding and befriending a strange creature which intrigues the child in all of us, but it then went too far. Patient viewers may find something to like in The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, but be warned, children will quickly get bored and ask to watch something else.

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep swims onto Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc holds an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain and no defects from the source material. The picture has a nice amount of depth and landscape shots of the loch are gorgeous. The colors leap off of the screen, most notably the greens. One issue with this transfer is that the clarity of the image makes some of the Crusoe CG effects look a bit rubbery. The Disc features a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track offers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good and nicely detailed. For the most part, this is a quite movie, but the scenes in the loch and the finale offer some impressive surround sound and subwoofer effects which really help to increase the effectiveness of these scenes.

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes. These are all brief scenes, some of which are extended versions of scenes from the film. They don't introduce any new ideas, but they do expand on the characters somewhat. The Disc has six FEATURETTES. "Myths and Legends" (10 minutes), narrated by Duncan Simpson, gives an overview of the legend of the water horse. From there, we hear from others concerning the story of The Loch Ness Monster. "The Story" (12 minutes) features comments from Director Jay Russell and author Dick King-Smith who discuss the narrative in the film and how it incorporates actual ideas from real-life. "The Characters" (15 minutes) examines each of the film's main characters in turn and has comments from the actors. They discuss their work in the film and their approach to the movie. "Setting the Scene" (13 minutes) shows that the film was shot in New Zealand. We see how things were done to make the locations look like Loch Ness. This segment contains a great deal of on-set footage, as we see how the crew overcame local conditions to shoot the film. "Water Work: Creating the Water Horse" (12 minutes) explores the challenge of shooting on water. "Creating Crusoe" (14 minutes) looks at the special effects which went into the creation of the water horse.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long