Movie review: ‘The Water Horse’: One Fantastic Fantasy |

Movie review: ‘The Water Horse’: One Fantastic Fantasy

Ann Hornaday
The Washington Post

“The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep” is part gentle-hearted fable, part action-adventure. This tale of Scotland’s storied Loch Ness and its most famous denizen may not be the perfect family Christmas movie ” some potentially terrifying material in the third act might put off little ones or the easily frightened ” but it’s close. The movie comes from Walden Media, the company responsible for such superb family entertainments as “Holes,” “Because of Winn-Dixie,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “Bridge to Terabithia. “

Based on a novel by Dick King-Smith, the movie tells the story of Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel), a boy living on the coast of Scotland during World War II. Angus’s father has long been away with the navy, leaving Angus with his mother, Anne (Emily Watson), the housekeeper at a gorgeous country house, and his older sister, Kirstie (Priyanka Xi).

Angus is on the beach one day when he discovers a strange, iridescent egg. He takes it back to the manor’s potting shed, where it hatches a strange, slippery beastie that looks like a tiny dinosaur with seal flippers. Soon the thing has grown into a full-fledged adolescent sea monster exhibiting all the energy and mischief of its age group. Meanwhile, a pompous army captain named Hamilton (David Morrissey) has taken over the house with his troops, convinced that the Germans are going to invade Scotland through nearby Loch Ness. And a mysterious caretaker named Lewis Mowbray (Ben Chaplin) has arrived on the scene.

Director Jay Russell (“My Dog Skip,” “Tuck Everlasting”) has created a rich, mostly tender fairy tale that combines elements of such children’s classics as “The Secret of Roan Inish,” “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial ” and “Born Free.” As enchanting as it is for children, there’s plenty for adults to appreciate, from Morrissey’s quietly hilarious turn as the self-regarding captain to the spectacular Scottish gorges and glens.

Combining the best of fantasy and somber reflection, “The Water Horse” is a lovely ride.

“The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep,” PG, 105 minutes, contains action and peril, mild profanity and brief smoking.