A rollicking fantasy about the world’s most famous sea creature, the Loch Ness Monster, “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep” is set at a mansion on the shores of Loch Ness in 1942. Angus (Alex Etel) a boy too timid to swim in the lake spends his days picking up treasures on the shore, and his nights listening to the wireless and keeping up with the progress of the Allies against Hitler. His father left for the Royal Navy years ago, and Angus is counting the days till his return, and keeping his boots polished. Angus has discovered an interesting rock with luminous colors under its surface on the seashore, and hid it in his father’s workshop. One stormy evening, Angus is awakened by a strange disturbance in the workshop. Inside, he finds a tiny dinosaur with flippers and a winning personality knocking about his father’s things. He feels a sense of pity for the fatherless creature, and promises to take care of the little monster, which he names “Crusoe”. Angus soon finds, to his dismay that the little guy has quite an appetite, not only for food, but for trouble.
His mother (Emily Watson) works as the head housekeeper for the absent lord of the mansion, and her job is complicated by the arrival of her employer’s Oxford buddy. A spoiled fop, Captain Hamilton (David Morrissey) who commandeers the estate to set up a military outpost on what he has convinced himself is the ‘front line of defense against German submarines’. Soldiers swarm all over the great stone manse, and a stocky cook and his belligerent bulldog Churchill take over the kitchen. Angus must hide Crusoe from the soldiers, whom he fears might kill him, and soon enlists the new handyman Louis (Ben Chaplin) and his sister Kirsten (Priyanta Xi) to help him hide Crusoe, whose rapidly growing size and penchant for mischief make him a constant challenge. Louis recognizes Crusoe as a water horse, a mythical creature of Scottish folklore, only one of which can exist in the world at once, and helps hide his existence from Angus’ mother. He quickly takes up with the children, as they protect Crusoe, as he too, is threatened by the arrogant Captain Hamilton.
Crusoe soon outgrows the bathtub, and the loo, and escapes into the house, there are plenty of laughs as the cute but clumsy little dinosaur careens around the mansion, pursued by the bad-tempered dog, which chases him out of the house. Realizing that he can no longer escape notice, Louis helps Angus release Crusoe into the lake. The boy and the sea monster have bonded and have a painful farewell, as Angus chases him away for his own safety. Crusoe continues to grow and becomes fearsome in appearance, and soon fishermen on the lake create a local sensation as they describe their encounter with the sea monster.
The timid Angus finds himself thrust into a courageous attempt to save his friend Crusoe from being bombed by the soldiers as they mistake him for an enemy invader. He finds within himself the strength to overcome his fears out of his love for Crusoe, and in return, is able to face the real terrors of wartime.
Mystical settings, romantic stone buildings, craggy mountains, and the deep and mysterious loch, coupled with outstanding performances by Alex Etel, and Ben Chaplin help create the kind of powerful escapism rarely seen since “ET”. Like “ET”, however, Crusoe crosses the line into frightening, and the masterful special effects may be overwhelming for small children, who might better wait to see this on DVD.
Although director Jay Russell is known for “My Dog Skip” another WWII boy and animal movie, “The Water Horse. Legend of the Deep” has enough great character actors, including Brian Cox the story’s narrator and mystical Celtic music in the soundtrack to provide a true Scottish ambiance. The only similarity between the two films is Russell’s tenderness toward a vulnerable little boy who loves an animal. ”The Water Horse; Legend of the Deep” is a wonderful holiday film which warms the heart and ignites the imagination of children and their parents. Rated PG for violence and some coarse (British) language. No nudity and no sexual content beyond a smooch and a cuddle. I recommend this excellent film for older children and up.
Cross-posted at MercatorNet and Catholic Exchange.