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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jay Russell
Cast:
Emily Watson, Bruce Allpress, Eddie Campbell, Ben Chaplin, Peter Corrigan, Brian Cox, Carl Dixon, Alex Etel, Nathan Christopher Haase, Craig Hall, Ian Harcourt
Writing Credits:
Robert Nelson Jacobs, Dick King-Smith (book)

Tagline:
Every big secret starts small.

Synopsis:
When a lonely young boy named Angus discovers a large, mysterious egg along the shores of Loch Ness, no one is prepared for what lies within. He soon discovers that the strange, mischievous hatchling inside is none other than the Water Horse, the loch's most mysterious and fabled creature! But with the Water Horse growing ten times its size every day, Angus finds it increasingly difficult to keep his new friend a secret.

Two-time Academy Award nominee Emily Watson, Alex Etel, Ben Chaplin, David Morrissey, and Brian Cox star in this heart warming tale from director Jay Russell and written by Robert Nelson Jacobs.

Box Office:
Budget
$45 million.
Opening Weekend
$14.070 million on 2772 screens.
Domestic Gross
$40.412 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.40:1/16X9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $28.96
Release Date: 4/8/2008

Bonus:
• Eight Deleted Scenes
• “Myths and Legends” Featurette
• “The Story” Featurette
• “The Characters” Featurette
• “Setting the Scene” Featurette
• “Water Work: Creating the Water Horse” Featurette
• “Creating Crusoe” Featurette
• Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Water Horse: Legend Of The Deep (Special Edition) (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 31, 2008)

Ever wonder how the Loch Ness Monster ended up in his home? We find out in 2007’s family adventure The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. We head back to World War II-era Scotland and meet young Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel), a lad left depressed by his dad’s (Craig Hall) departure for military service.

Both fascinated by and terrified of the water, Angus searches for shells and comes across as strange stone – or so he thinks. It turns out that this object is actually an egg that hatches some sort of odd amphibian creature. Angus feeds the beast and tends to its wounds, factors that help bond the critter to him and make them fast friends.

Angus names the little fella “Crusoe” and watches him rapidly grow into a much larger creature. Along the way, his sister Kirstie (Priyanka Xi) and mysterious new handyman Lewis Mowbray (Ben Chaplin) learn about Crusoe, but they don’t rat out Angus to his mother (Emily Watson). Mowbray even lets Angus know that he thinks Crusoe is a water horse, a figure believed to be mythical. They take care of Crusoe and deal with a mix of challenges, most of which come from the British military and Nazi U-Boat hunting Captain Thomas Hamilton (David Morrissey).

I can see the pitch meeting for Deep right now: “It’s the Loch Ness Monster meets ET!” Actually, I suppose that description simplifies things a bit, especially since it adapts a novel. Maybe author Dick King-Smith had ET in mind when he wrote his tale, but I’d imagine the Spielberg factor stemmed more from the filmmakers.

Whatever the case was, the parallels seem unmistakable, especially through the film’s first half. Angus’s early interactions with Crusoe and even the critter’s “voice” can’t help but remind the viewer of that squishy little space monkey from 1982. The film manages to turn into something a bit more of its own as it progresses, but not well enough to overcome the impression that it ripped off it more successful predecessor.

It doesn’t help that when Deep goes off on its own, it becomes significantly less interesting. Derivative as they may be, the sequences in which Angus gets to know Crusoe have some charm, most of which comes from the creature himself. The computer-generated Crusoe is darned cute in his smaller incarnation, and he displays much more personality than any of the humans do. He’s darned adorable and a lot of fun.

Until he gets big, enters the Loch and the idiotic military side of things becomes more prominent. Oh, those nasty British soldiers! I must admit it’s weird to see His Majesty’s forces treated like baddies, given that we’ve gone through more than 60 years of films that view them as heroes. The manner in which Deep uses the Brits as villains feels strange at best and insulting at worst. I don’t claim that every Brit who fought in WWII was some sort of saint, but why use them in such a nasty manner?

Yes, they’re revealed to be more misguided than evil by the end, and yes, some try to redeem themselves, but I still really dislike this plot thread. The choice seems especially unlikable because it’s so unnecessary. Does Deep need such an artificial threat to Crusoe to entertain? Nope, not in the least. I’d think those involved could’ve come up with a more creative way to keep viewer interest. Yes, ET had the threat from the government to ratchet up the tension, but that choice felt more organic and not so contrived. A half-decent writer could invent dramatic elements more convincing than these, so the choices made here just harm the end product.

Deep wants very much to be a wondrous tale, but it simply remains an unlikable ET wannabe. That classic managed to neatly integrate drama, action, comedy and emotion into one highly entertaining and involving package. Deep plays all the same notes but lacks the same level of investment and true magic. It ends up as a stale piece of awkward fantasy.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio A/ Bonus C

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Perhaps 224 minutes of footage on one disc was too much, as the presentation seemed to suffer.

The main problem related to sharpness. Quite a lot of the flick appeared moderately soft and fuzzy. The concerns were never extreme, but they persisted through the entire film, as it rarely looked particularly crisp. Some light jagged edges and shimmering also occurred, and I noticed a bit of edge enhancement. Source flaws were absent, but light digital artifacts occasionally created a slightly grainy look to the proceedings.

Movies set in Scotland always seem to go with pale colors, and Deep followed that trend. The film exhibited a quiet sense of green and blue but not much else, as it went with an intentionally wan palette. Within those constraints, the hues looked fine. Blacks were reasonably dark and dense, while shadows seemed acceptable. Low-light shots were occasionally a bit murky, but they usually came across as decent. This wasn’t a bad transfer, but it was too soft and didn’t live up to modern standards.

On the other hand, Deep came with a surprisingly excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I normally reserve “A” grades for action flicks or sci-fi adventures that offer lots of battles to fill the channels. Deep boasted neither, but it still created a consistently dynamic and involving setting. All five channels received a real workout, as the mix used the speakers to great advantage. This went for loud scenes like those with the military as well as quieter ones. For instance, during Angus’s introduction to Crusoe, the creature zipped around the room in a most convincing manner.

Of course, the track became most impressive during the action pieces, but these others were also terrific. I really liked the manner in which the mix created a subtle sense of reality. Take the sequence in which Mowbray talked with Hamilton while Angus searched for Crusoe. The latter aspect of the story was played out in the background, so it didn’t dominate. We just heard Angus call out from the various speakers in a way that let us hear him but not one that called attention to itself. This was just one of the many cool little bits found in this broad and engaging track.

Audio quality seemed just as positive. Speech was consistently natural and concise, with no edginess or other issues. Music was lively and bright, as the score exhibited nice highs and warm lows. Effects appeared equally strong. They were accurate and dynamic, and they boasted real punch in the louder bits. I never expected to give a flick like Deep an “A” for its soundtrack, but it earned that grade as it consistently excelled.

All of the package’s extras appear on DVD Two. Eight Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes, 49 seconds. These include “Angus Listens to the Radio” (0:40), “Caught in the Workshop” (0:54), “Kirstie Smiles at Gunner Corbin” (0:30), “Broken Bust” (0:41), “’Thank God We’ve Got a Navy’” (0:21), “Lewis Helps Angus Escape” (2:41), “Angus Blames Lewis” (0:45) and “Cease Fire” (0:23). As you can tell by their running times, the vast majority of these clips offer insubstantial additions. They’re mostly little comedic bits and not much else. “Escape” offers a smidgen of character information – especially since we find out why the name “Crusoe” means something to Angus – but even it doesn’t satisfy. None of these scenes adds much.

Six featurettes follow. Myths and Legends goes for 10 minutes, 26 seconds as it mixes movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from director Jay Russell, naturalist Adrian Shine, and monster hunter Steve Feltham. We learn a little about the origins of the Loch Ness Monster legend, theories about what it might be, and facts about the famous faked photo of it. “Myths” is an awfully short look at the subject and not a wholly satisfying one. It touches on some interesting topics, but it comes and goes too quickly to offer enough substance.

For The Story, we find 11 minutes and 42 seconds of notes from Russell, producer Charlie Lyons, author Dick King-Smith, and actors Alex Etel, David Morrissey, Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin. We get a few notes about the original book and various thoughts about the film’s tale. Once again, little meat appears in this forgettable piece. The participants mainly tell us how magical the story is but we learn almost nothing about the flick along the way.

Next comes the 15-minute and 30-second The Characters. It features Russell, Etel, Watson, Lyons, Chaplin, Morrissey, producer Barrie Osborne and actor Priyanka Xi. We find notes about casting, the roles, performances and interactions on the set. As with “Story”, a smattering of decent observations crop up here, but not many. It emphasizes happy talk and leaves us without much substance.

Setting the Scene lasts 13 minutes, 29 seconds and includes Russell, Osborne, Chaplin, Morrissey, and production designer Tony Burrough. “Scene” examines shooting New Zealand for Scotland as well as actually filming in Scotland, sets, working the military side of the flick, and a few other production specifics. We still find too many puffy praise in this show, but at least it compensates with some nice glimpses from the shoot. These offer a good look at the sets and whatnot, so they help make the program reasonably intriguing.

When we go to Water Work: Creating the Water Horse, we get 11 minutes, 38 seconds of comments from Russell, Etel, Chaplin, Morrissey, Osborne, and stunt coordinator Augie Davis. This piece looks at the issues related to working in the water. These include training Etel to deal with that setting as well as stunts and making it look like the water and characters interacted with a nonexistent Crusoe. A combination of good behind the scenes images and useful notes combine to create the best featurette so far.

Finally, Creating Crusoe fills 14 minutes, 15 seconds with statements from Russell, Watson, Chaplin, Morrissey, senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, visual effects supervisors Erik Winquist and R. Christopher White, creature FX art director Gino Acevedo, and animation supervisor Richard Francis-Moore. The program covers the design of Crusoe and the methods used to bring him to the screen. Like “Water Work”, “Creating” takes a nice look at its subject. It covers creative and technical decisions to offer a good overview of the film’s lead creature.

A few ads open DVD Two. We get clips for Surf’s Up, Open Season, and Open Season 2. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for Daddy Day Camp, Are We Done Yet?, The Final Season, The Prince and the Pauper, Roxy Hunter and the Mystery of the Moody Ghost, The Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, The Last Day of Summer/Shredderman Rules!, and Storm Hawks.

With The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, we get a reminder of how tough it is to create a truly satisfying family fantasy. The film presents an unconvincing melange of comedy, adventure, drama and sentiment that leaves us unsatisfied and generally bored. The DVD suffers from mediocre picture quality, but it offers excellent audio as well as a mix of sporadically interesting featurettes. I can’t endorse this forgettable flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7272 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main